Microsoft is trying to tighten up security on medical information that is sent by e-mail, while at the same time making it easier to share.
At a U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services event earlier today in Washington, D.C., the company unveiled an updated component to its HealthVault online personal health platform that can send encrypted copies of a patient's medical records via a secured e-mail address.
Microsoft says the new feature should make it easier for health care records and other information updates to be sent to its system, while at the same time meeting security protocols mandated by the Office of the National Coordinator's Direct Project. The first health care technology companies to use it will be MedPlus and VisionShare.
Medical records that are sent through Microsoft's HealthVault system will be saved to a user's profile on the service, so that they're easier to access when a patient goes to a new doctor. In a blog post by Peter Neupert, the corporate VP of Microsoft's Health Solutions Group, Neupert explained that the system will eventually expand so that doctors can share and discuss this information like they would an e-mail exchange:
To start with, we will enable physicians to transmit a copy of a patient's clinical information to a new e-mail address created within HealthVault. This information can be read or saved to a patient's HealthVault account to build their personal health record - a holistic view of an individual's health history. In the future, we expect to make this functionality available to providers and to enable secure messaging for physician-to-physician consults and for transfer of patient records.
Microsoft first unveiled its plans for HealthVault in late 2007, as a way to make health records more transparent and centralized for patients and health care providers alike. Besides the online component, the technology initiative was designed to expand into devices that could make use of the information to custom tailor things like workouts, and dietary recommendations. Since its introduction, Microsoft has partnered with companies like CVS Caremark to share prescription histories, as well as the Mayo Clinic, which tapped Microsoft's HealthVault to power its Health Manager product.