Microsoft To Launch "Search-Engine Supported" Site For Health Records

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.

From BusinessWeek:

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, 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.”

So true.

Microsoft Wants Your Health Records [BusinessWeek]
HealthVault [Microsoft]


Edit Your Comment

  1. FLConsumer says:

    I see the words “Microsoft” and “health records” in the same article… I don’t need to read any further…how do I opt out?

  2. ptrix says:

    Why should ANYONE trust MicroSoft (the corporation hit by numerous anti-trust lawsuits), with something as personal and confidential as their health records?

    What possible use could a software company have for that kind of data? So that they can aggressively market their products to people? “Hello Mr. Anderson, our records indicate that you have Myopia. Would you be interested in purchasing MicroSoft Vista: Extra Large Text Edition?…”

    I don’t think so.

  3. emona says:

    Hell. No.

  4. OnceWasCool says:

    Just had to check it out. Interesting to find if searched for “Flaming Jock Itch” not on reveals information as well as an ad for smoke detectors.


  5. Imaginary_Friend says:

    I’m in UR vaultz, exposin’ UR illz.

  6. Indecision says:

    @ptrix: I haven’t looked into how this system is set up, so I don’t know if it works this way. But a responsibly designed healthcare info repository would make use of public key encryption to make sure that only you, and people authorized by you, have access to the information stored.

    This accomplishes two things. One, if a hacker manages to get even a full copy of the database, it is useless, as the encryption would take far too long to break. (Several lifetimes.) Two, it also prevents the company that’s hosting the data from ever seeing it, even though it’s in their hands.

    Whether that’s the way Microsoft is doing this, I can’t say. But it’s the way I would do it.

  7. Why is this supposed to be better than WebMD? I’m so not getting it.

  8. drjayphd says:

    Bill Gates: Someone forged medical information, and that is a felony.
    Jim: Okay, whoa… all right, ’cause that’s a pretty intense accusation. How do you know that they’re fake?
    Bill Gates: (reading from a sheet) Uh, leprosy, flesh-eating bacteria, hot dog fingers, government-created killer nano robot infection.
    Jim: Killer nano robots?
    Pam: It’s an epidemic.
    Bill Gates: The problem, Jim, is that people who are really suffering from a medical condition won’t receive the care they need because someone in this office is coming up with ridiculous stuff. Count Choculitis.
    Jim: Sounds tough.
    Bill Gates: Why did you write that down, Jim? Is it because you know I love Count Chocula?

  9. Rusted says:

    Blue Screen Of Death could actually mean something. Cool.

  10. synergy says:

    @FLConsumer at 1:33PM: IAWTC!

  11. Anonymous says:

    What in the world does an anti-trust suit have to do with keeping personal information private? Sure, we can all accuse Microsoft of lots of things.

    This (in concept) is actually not an entirely bad idea. If any of you have non-HMOs, it can actually be quite difficult to get all your doctors to share information with one another and to get it all collated in one place (prescriptions from eye dr, medications from PCP, other meds from specialists, etc). It seriously takes up a lot of time. *IF* they can throw their weight around and get a lot of the healthcare information systems to add exports and imports to healthvault, it has the potential to be quite good, just like Walmart is getting behind CFLs – which is good for *everyone*.

    Rectinilear – the idea behind this is that you can just go to your dr’s office and say ‘send my test results to healthvault’ and they’ll magically go there, so *you* can do whatever you want to with them. And, you can approve or disapprove whatever conduits you want to access your information and know when they accessed it as opposed to now where you have to spend a lot of time pushing paper back and forth beween doctors.

  12. ptrix says:


    Well, you see, the two things in common between the phrases, “Why should ANYONE trust MicroSoft…” and “…the corporation hit by numerous anti-trust lawsuits” is the idea of TRUST (more specifically, the LACK of it), and MicroSoft.

    I don’t know who you work for, or whose interestes you represent, but where I live, we trust our confidential medical records with our health care providers, and I can assure you, Microsoft is not one of them.

    What’s worse, is that according to the info above, “HealthVault” is currently in BETA. that means (a) it should probably not be deployed for public use, considering the nature of the data it will be operating with, and (b) they’re most likely still working the bugs out. OH JOY. Yep, sounds like nothing can possibly ever go wrong here… right?

    and i haven’t even gotten to the part above where they state:

    “4. We do not use your health information for commercial purposes unless we ask and you clearly tell us we may.”

    sure, that sounds good and all, but if you’ll read between the lines here, aren’t they blatently telling us, and i’m paraphrasing, that: “we would VERY MUCH like to go through your medical files, and use all that juicy info about you to turn a profit. We never did promise to NOT read, categorize, and index it, we only promised to ask you before we sell it or use it to target advertising at you. You know, because we’re MicroSoft, and we gotta make a buck too. By the way, our records indicate that you have Myopia. canwe have your permission to ask if you’d be interested in purchasing MicroSoft Vista: Extra Large Text Edition?”

    Again, I don’t think so.

    Your opinion may differ, and you reserve the right to disagree, but that’s how I feel. I hope you can understand why i feel that they aren’t exactly the first bunch of people who I equate with “trust”.