Video: Microsoft's medical mission

updated 10/4/2007 2:15:59 PM ET 2007-10-04T18:15:59

Microsoft Corp. launched a Web site Thursday for managing personal health and medical information for Americans, jumping into an industry whose digital future is clouded by privacy worries.

From the consumer's point of view, Microsoft's HealthVault site is part library, part filing cabinet and part fax machine for an individual or family's medical records and notes.

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The free site is tied to a health information search engine the software company launched at the end of last month. It gives users a repository for health-related data such as medical histories, immunizations and records from the doctor's office and hospital visits as well as measurements from devices like heart rate monitors.

Users can dole out access — in the form of e-mailed invitations — to different slices of their private health data to doctors, family members and other people they trust as the need arises.

The HealthVault site itself does not do much more than provide a window into stored information, and a mechanism for sharing it. Microsoft hopes hospitals, doctors' offices, advocacy groups and insurance companies in the United States will build Web applications that patients will want to use.

So far, Microsoft said applications from the American Heart Association, American Lung Association and other organizations are in the works, and devices including blood glucose monitoring systems made by Johnson & Johnson will be able to upload data into the system.

Microsoft said CapMed, which already markets personal health record tools, will create an application for HealthVault, as will Kryptiq Corp., whose program will help doctors send and receive information from HealthVault without having to switch from technology they already use.

Microsoft said it plans to support HealthVault with advertising revenue from the search portion of the site.

In an interview, Sean Nolan, chief architect of the company's two-year-old Health Solutions group, characterized this "beta" launch of HealthVault as an early step into a difficult industry.

For one thing, between 80 percent and 85 percent of doctors in private practice do not keep electronic records, and hospitals are not much better, according to Lynne Dunbrack, program director of market research group Health Industry Insights. And where electronic records do exist, there is no guarantee that any two health care providers will call the same treatment or lab work by the same name.

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