New Microsoft Technology Streamlines Health Data Records, Allows Patient Management

Shantella Y. Sherman | 7/1/2009, 7:17 p.m.

As healthcare advocates increasingly turn toward patients to better manage their lifestyle choices, the average consumer is faced with €scrap booking€ medical records, test results, and health data, in an effort to keep track of them. To better facilitate active participation as consumers begin to manage their own healthcare, Microsoft has designed the Microsoft Health Vault, which links a single patient€s statistics in one streamlined database.

Keith Toussaint, senior program manager for Microsoft€s Health Solutions Group, said that Health Vault implores the best technology with convenience, allowing medical data from different physicians a harmonizing space that more effectively serves the overall care needs of the patient.

€We look at problems in a sort of global way and how can we bring our knowledge and talent to bear on those issues. Your individual health information is scattered in data silos; primary care physicians, employer, specialists and hospital stays. Until health vault, there was no way, electronically, to gather all of that information into one space,€ Toussaint said.

€As a result, there is a better continuity of care and a better ability to be cognizant of your own health and fitness.€

Consumers can maintain all of their health records digitally, gaining access to them through either a home computer, or through specialized kiosks in shopping centers and drug stores. For instance, a person with high blood pressure would be able to take their pressure readings at a drug store machine and have the data uploaded automatically to their personal health files or to their physician€s offices.

Toussaint points to the diabetes initiatives under Medstar Hospital E-health programs, funded by the Be Well Fund, which provided $4.5 million dollars in funds to more than 15 institutions.

€This was the first endeavor to managing diabetes for their patients, who may not be particularly tech savvy or may not have computers. The programs allowed patients to interact with our devices and integrated that with kiosks in drug stores that upload information to the patient€s accounts to track their glucose. It was targeted to the D.C. community and those are just very early efforts,€ Toussaint said.

Toussaint added that Health Vault will also help disenfranchised neighborhoods where the digital divide is widened by a lack of infrastructure as well as hardware.

€There are two different ends of the spectrum, making relevant capabilities aware to consumers, and the long-term vision. First, the kiosk technologies captures loads of biometric data, allowing you to take blood pressure and blood glucose at kiosks connected to Health Vault accounts,€ Toussaint said.

€Whether or not they have a computer in their homes, a person is able to access their information and upload their data at the kiosk,€ said Toussaint, adding that the technology it makes it available for people who do not have home computers.

€A lot of those disparities seen in D.C. are an artifact of the relatively early nature of the systems themselves. Similarly with what we did with Health Vault, those services will begin to become more affordable and readily available in €cloud based€ services,€ Toussaint said.

Health Vault is accessible to healthcare physicians, who are able to actively manage the data while the patient maintains access to them. Toussaint said that this component is critical for communicating patient needs, in the midst of crisis.

€One component of Health Vault, Medivante, provides emergency departments with €in case of emergency€ information that is vital for the patients€ treatment €" core sets of information, current medications, and allergies. The fact that your personal physician is connected allows the information to flow at the right time to the right people. Healthcare is an information problem. Without the right information, even the most skilled clinician is unable to take the appropriate action,€ Toussaint said.

For those who may be concerned about the privacy and security of their information, Health Vault provides, secure lines and passwords, behind several layers of security.

More information about Health Vault can be found by visiting their Web site at www.healthvault.com.