Microsoft, Kaiser test integration of e-health systems

Pilot program would use Microsoft's HealthVault platform

Microsoft Corp. and health insurance provider Kaiser Permanente will share data between their e-health systems as part of Microsoft's efforts to provide a central online repository for patient records in order to streamline the complex flow of information in the health care industry, the companies said today.

The two companies launched a pilot program with Kaiser's 156,000 employees to exchange information between Kaiser's My Health Manager e-health records system and Microsoft's HealthVault consumer health care platform.

On a conference call, Anna-Lisa Silvestre, vice president of online services at Kaiser Permanente, said that Microsoft and Kaiser will decide in November whether the pilot has been successful and whether to open up the program to the more than 8.7 million Kaiser members in the U.S.

Silvestre said that about 30% of Kaiser's customers use the My Health Manager system to keep track of their health records and information. In some geographic areas, as many as 50% of patients use the system. My Health Manager is an online personal health-records system that enables Kaiser customers to access their information and records online, as well as to communicate with their doctors, make appointments and the like.

The pilot with Kaiser is an early step in creating what Microsoft hopes will be a central repository for patient health records and information through HealthVault.

About two years ago, Microsoft re-evaluated its offerings for the health care industry and directed its efforts toward bridging the information gap between enterprise companies, such as health insurance providers, and patients through an online system that allows them to share information securely over the Web. Competitor Google Inc. is trying out similar offerings.

Microsoft first unveiled HealthVault in October as a beta release; the company expects it to go into full production release by the end of the year.

"HealthVault is the connection between the consumer and the enterprise," said George Scriban, product manager for Microsoft's consumer health platform, in a recent interview. Microsoft eventually aims to allow third parties to write applications that can tap into the HealthVault system and provide health, wellness and fitness programs for customers whose patient records are stored in the system, he said.

The success of HealthVault depends on third parties, such as hospital and insurance companies, and their willingness to open up protocols to their information systems to communicate and store information with HealthVault. This will require that Microsoft develop trusting relationships with them.

Microsoft is running similar pilots with the Mayo Clinic and New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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