After essentially leading the early years of the computer age Microsoft appears to be consistently playing catch-up. They have chased after the ideas of others for years now. The best example probably being the development of Bing trying to catch up with Google.
I find it amusing that they are now announcing the release of HealthVault to the mobile market as if they are the first company to release to the mobile market. It looks like a worthwhile app, and has some great value in the long run, but it never ceases to amuse me how Microsoft always feels like they are the top dog in everything when they are actually just following a trend. End rant.
As for the app itself there are some very interesting aspects.
The first being simply the mobile availability of features. It is very convenient for people to carry their personal health record in their pocket. This would allow patients to look up their medical history when filling out forms, and tell doctors exactly what they have been taking or been diagnosed with in the past.
Right now it is only available on Windows Phone 7, but that it should be available on the Apple iOS and Google Android in the coming weeks. They have also built in client libraries to allow for the development of related apps. The first one, Health Guard by Akvelon is already available on the WP7 marketplace.
HealthVault does a good job of translating CCR and CCD files into the PHR which is convenient since that is what most doctors are starting to use as they work towards attaining Meaningful Use. The sheer convenience of this inputting method should help drive their product. Users will still have the option to input manually, and anything that is not recognized will default to a manual input, but the more automation involved the more likely people will be to adopt it.
Maybe the most interesting aspect of the release is the ability to use Facebook to access the site. By using your Facebook credentials you can populate the sign up form take advantage of what HealthVault has to offer. With the amount of people that think of Facebook as the internet and how it drives their lives, this makes tons of sense. They did emphasize that there will be no flow of information from HealthVault back to Facebook, but that if they ever were to develop such apps they would not be implemented without the express permission of users.
This really brings up an interesting discussion about EHR/EMR/PHR and social networking. This was addressed in a video done by the founder of emrandhipaa.com which can be found here. I don’t think we will be seeing people’s health records end up on their wall or anything, but I do think we will start to see apps that more widely cover our personal healthcare and take advantage of the power of Facebook.