Mayo Clinic broadens Microsoft HealthVault-based service

Online e-health system allows patients to share information and receive recommendations from professionals

The Mayo Clinic medical practice has launched the first widely available e-health information service for patients on Microsoft's HealthVault service, the result of a partnership the companies launched last year.

The Mayo Clinic Health Manager allows patients of the Rochester, Minnesota, health-care provider to store medical information on Microsoft's HealthVault service, a central online repository for patient health information and records that Microsoft unveiled last year, the companies said Tuesday.

The general public also can use the service. The two previously had been piloting the system with a limited number participants in Mayo Clinic's health plan.

Using Mayo Clinic's network, users of its health-care services can keep track of their health information and information for family members, and receive health guidance and recommendations from Mayo that is customized for each person, the companies said.

Examples of information that can be stored in the system are health records from doctors, schools or employers, or prescriptions from pharmacies. The system also allows patients to upload information from home-health devices such as blood glucose monitors and digital scales.

Patients can authorize whether they want to share their health information with doctors or other caregivers, and those caregivers can provide health-care and general wellness recommendations based on the information patients provide.

Microsoft has been piloting services that connect HealthVault to the IT and health-practice systems of large health-care provider networks, but the Mayo Clinic Health Manager is the first broadly available consumer health service built on its repository, according to Microsoft.

In addition to Mayo Clinic, Kaiser Permanente and New York Presbyterian Hospital, among others, also have been leveraging HealthVault to connect patients with their health-care providers.

About two years ago Microsoft re-evaluated its offerings for the health-care industry and directed its efforts to 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. Microsoft came up with HealthVault to solve that problem. Competitor Google also is piloting similar offerings.

The success of Microsoft HealthVault depends on third parties, such as hospital and insurance companies, being willing to open up protocols to their own information systems to communicate and store information with the system. This requires Microsoft and those parties to develop relationships of trust.

Managing health-care records and information in the U.S. has been and remains a huge pain point for the industry. The health-care information system in the U.S. is difficult for both patients and doctors to navigate.

Patient health records for the most part remain stored in disparate systems and there are still huge paper trails of records that health-care providers must keep to comply with regulations that govern the industry.

The U.S. government recently approved an economic stimulus package with US$19 billion in funds available for health-care professionals to develop better IT systems.

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