Your Health Data, Plugged In to the Web

Microsoft launched a free, ad-supported online health portal called HealthVault yesterday that allows people to upload their medical records to the Web and share the information with doctors.

Microsoft beat not only the federal government to the punch but also a number of other companies, such as Google and Steve Case’s Revolution Health, that reportedly have been working on similar portals. Some privacy advocates are concerned that such sites could expose sensitive medical data to hackers and outsiders, but Microsoft said it has spent the past several years consulting with experts to ensure that HealthVault will keep personal information private.

Several other countries have already implemented nationwide medical-record networks that they say are secure. In Germany, for example, patients can carry all their medical records on a single computer chip.

The U.S. government’s attempts to automate doctors’ offices have been less successful.

Studies have estimated that creating a nationwide electronic medical-record network would save more than $500 billion in medical costs over 15 years, but doctors are slow to adopt technology that has been commonplace in banking and retail for more than a decade. About 90 percent of physicians and more than 80 percent of hospitals still use paper records, according to Nancy Szemraj, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services.

{Microsoft has set a new very high industry standard for ensuring the privacy of personal health information, i.e. ensuring that consumers control access to their sensitive health information. Microsoft’s HealthVault and its application partners have pledged to adhere to the 2007 principles of the Coalition for Patient Privacy, the toughest patient privacy principles in the nation. These principles are hardwired into the architecture of HealthVault and also enforced by contracts. In addition, HealthVault is being audited on whether it complies with the 2007 privacy principles and can require partner audits and end participation if a partner does not adhere to the standards for privacy.  For the first time, a major multinational corporation is being crystal clear about what it means by the word ‘privacy’ and is proving that its product actually does what they say it will do by obtaining outside audits of its privacy and security practices amd protections. All health technology vendors should meet these same ‘best practices’ for privacy if they expect consumers to trust and use their systems. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

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