Monday, October 08, 2007

HealthVault: Adding Structure (Interoperability) to the Health Information Ecosystem

Last week (October 4) Microsoft rolled out a brand new vehicle that should help accelerate the growing consumer driven health care movement and creation of a national interoperable health information system. HealthVault is a new personal health record (PHR) platform that allows the user to gather, store and share health information online.

There has been a lot written about the roll out of HealthVault over the last week. I've read numerous articles and blog posts to try to get a better grasp of what it is (and what it is not). Over the weekend I ran across Vince Kuraitis' post at his e-CareManagement Blog which I found to have provided some good insight. Not until reading Kuraitis' post did I actually understand that HealthVault is not a PHR but a PHR platform.

In particular I like this quote by Kuraitis and his comparison of the pre-fax world:
" . . . this really isn’t about Microsoft vs. Google . . . It’s about creating a new business ecosystem based on the appropriate (honoring privacy and security) free flow of interoperable and transportable personal health information (PHI) — something that doesn’t exist today."
I'll throw out another comparison that I thought about as I read his post -- the natural gas transportation and storage industry. West Virginia is home to some large underground gas storage facilities. Basically, natural gas is pumped during off season to West Virginia from the Gulf Coast via large transmission lines or is gathered from small wells through gathering facilities and lines. The gas is then pumped and stored in previously depleted underground wells. In doing so, the natural gas can be stored safely and moved quickly to market in the northeast during the cold months.

HealthVault is setting out the same architecture, transportation and storage device for health information. The natural gas (health information) is very valuable and the system of moving it around is incredibly complex with multiple players and competitors. You have individuals and companies constantly adding natural gas (health information) to the system and end users who need natual gas (health information) at the opposite end. To date the health care industry does not have such a structured, standardized system of pipelines to protect and transport health information. We are largely still living in a paper world with systems that don't have the capability to talk to each other.

As I step back and take a look -- I see an industry in the midst of a tidal shift regarding the control of personal health information and maybe the bigger question of who wants (and can safely) control health information. Microsoft's HealthVault appears to be laying down more planks to create the platform for an interoperable system that will allow for health information to become more transportable, transparent and standardized. Ultimately, the question in my mind remains whether this will help to improve care and help each of us become better stewards of our own health?

Stay tune . . .

No comments: