Microsoft and Kaiser trial e-health system tie-up

Microsoft and health care insurance provider Kaiser Permanente will share data between their e-health systems.

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Microsoft and health care insurance provider Kaiser Permanente will share data between their e-health systems.

The move is part of Microsoft's efforts to provide a central online repository for patient records, aimed at streamlining the complex flow of information in the health care industry.

The two companies have launched a pilot programme to Kaiser's 156,000 employees to exchange information between Kaiser's My Health Manager e-health records system and Microsoft's HealthVault consumer health care platform.

Anna-Lisa Silvestre, vice president of Online Services at Kaiser Permanente, said that Microsoft and Kaiser will decide in November if the pilot has been successful and whether to open up the programme to the more than 8.7 million Kaiser members in the US.

Silvestre said that about 30 percent of Kaiser's customers currently use the My Health Manager system to keep track of their health records and information, and in some areas as many as 50 percent of patients use the system.

My Health Manager is an online personal health-records system that enables Kaiser customers to access their information and records online, as well as communicate with their doctors and make appointments.

The pilot with Kaiser is an early step in creating what Microsoft hopes will be a central repository for patient health records and information through HealthVault.

About two years ago Microsoft reevaluated 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. Google is piloting similar offerings.

Microsoft first unveiled HealthVault in October as a beta release; the company expects HealthVault to go into full production release by the end of the year.

"HealthVault is the connection between the consumer and the enterprise," said George Scriban, product manager for Microsoft's consumer health platform, in a recent interview.

Microsoft eventually aims to allow third parties to write applications that can tap into the HealthVault system and provide health, wellness and fitness programs for customers whose patient records are stored in the system, he said.

The success of 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.

Microsoft also is running similar pilots with the Mayo Clinic and New York Presbyterian Hospital.

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