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Microsoft Launches Health Vault

October 15, 2007

Health Vault is a new program that Microsoft has launched, and their first foray into the consumer health care market.  The program is web based, and is free, at least for the time being.

There are two components that make up the Health Vault program: the personal health record portion and the search option.  If a person chooses to use the personal health record portion, the information they enter will be stored in an encrypted database.  Each person will set his/her own privacy options and will determine what information is stored and who gets to access it.  Microsoft does not expect many individuals to load their own personal health information onto Health Vault, but hopes that individuals will allow doctors, clinics, and hospitals permission to enter information.  The search option will not be linked to the personal information portion, but will allow individuals to do research about the health topics of their choice.

How will Health Vault affect health insurance?

It is still a little too early to determine how Health Vault will affect the health insurance industry.  At this time, health insurance industries do not have access to Health Vault.  If health insurance companies form a partnership with Microsoft, some may find an issue with health insurance companies having free access to potential client's health records. 

What are the Pros and Cons associated with Health Vault?

The main benefit that Health Vault will offer individuals, hospitals, doctors, and clinics that elect to use the system is this: ease.  Health information will be more universally accessible with Health Vault.  The main drawback to Health Vault, the feature that worries people the most is privacy.  Though Microsoft has developed a secure and encrypted database to store the information, health records are very private documents, and many people do not want multiple eyes viewing their records.

Who are the supporters and opponents of Health Vault?

Presbyterian Hospital, the Mayo Clinic and MedStar Health, have all formed partnerships with Microsoft around the project, it is safe to assume that they are proponents as well.  Opponents, or skeptics of Health Vault include those who are concerned with security issues, such as Dr. Annie Antón at theprivacyplace.org and John Mack at Pharma Maketing Blog.  

Health Vault is a very new program that is still developing.  Though it may have it’s drawbacks, many may see it as inevitable due to the increased use of the internet to store personal information. 

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