Today Microsoft unveiled “Health Vault,” a “search-engine” supported service that will organize your health records, should you decide to allow your doctors to share them with Microsoft.
The free service will be supported by consumer searches, which will be anonymous and not tied to the patient’s medical records, says Microsoft.
Microsoft is hoping it can make money on the service–which is free to patients–with help from a little box inside HealthVault’s page, where consumers can search the Web. The box connects customers to a health-care search engine created by Medstory, a Foster City (Calif.) company that Microsoft acquired in February. Unlike the traditional list of links produced by general-interest search engines such as Google or Microsoft’s Live.com, Medstory queries generate health-specific information, grouped together under topics such as clinical studies, nutrition, and medication.
There’s also a spot for sponsored links. And that’s where Microsoft is betting it can make money. A recent Harris Interactive (HPOL) poll found that 76% of adults over 55 use the Web to help diagnose their medical conditions. Those queries generate $500 million to $1 billion in advertising a year, according to Microsoft’s estimates. “It’s all about search,” says Neupert, who sees the market growing to $5 billion in five to seven years.
Of course, the entire project hinges on whether or not you’ll allow Microsoft to have your medical records. Here’s the privacy information they toss at you the second you enter the site:
1. The Microsoft HealthVault record you create is controlled by you.
2. You decide what goes into your HealthVault record.
3. You decide who can see and use your information on a case-by-case basis.
4. We do not use your health information for commercial purposes unless we ask and you clearly tell us we may.
As Mr. Greenberg-Berger says: “I wouldn’t even give my health records to Apple.”