As the battle to be the leading purveyor of consumers' Web-based personal health record tools heats up, Microsoft on Monday announced a pilot program with Kaiser Permanente, the nation's largest health maintenance organization, which launched its own e-medical record program for millions of patients a few years ago.
The Kaiser Permanente and Microsoft pilot program aims to expand functionality to the personal e-health records of Kaiser Permanente employees (who are also Kaiser Permanente patients), while providing to Microsoft a new pool of users as the software vendor demonstrates to consumers at-large how they, too, can manage their health information via Microsoft's HealthVault platform.
The pilot will test the exchange of patient health data from Kaiser Permanente's My Health Manager e-health record system to Microsoft's HealthVault, which Microsoft unveiled last October as a Web-based service providing tools for consumers to manage their own health data and conduct private health-related Web-searches.
The Kaiser Permanente/Microsoft project also comes on the heels of Google last month announcing the general availability of Google personal health record tools.
That Google announcement followed an e-health record pilot launched last year with more than 1,600 Cleveland Clinic patients, who signed on to have their health data from the clinic's e-medical records incorporated into Google personal health record accounts. Last month, the Cleveland Clinic, as well as a few other health-care players, including several large pharmacy chains and lab companies, announced they would also transmit data to Google's Web-based personal health records when patients requested.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) is among the handful of health-care providers that signed on to provide patient data to Google personal health records. However, the Boston-based medical center -- which also allows patients to access their e-medical data directly from BIDMC via a secure hospital Web site -- isn't playing favorites when it comes to the consumer offerings of personal health record services from Google and Microsoft. BIDMC will support both platforms.
"We've already completed our prototype for HealthVault," said John Halamka, CIO at CareGroup Healthcare System, which operates BIDMC. "I believe patients should be the stewards of their own data and I'm committed to making data available to patients via any secure personal health record system they request," said Halamka in an e-mail interview with InformationWeek.
For its part, Microsoft has been recruiting third parties to develop applications to run on HealthVault, and to date, about 40 such applications have been developed, including those allowing patients to monitor their blood pressure, glucose, and other key readings using personal health devices, and download this info to share with their physicians, says Peter Neupert, Microsoft Health Solutions Group corporate VP.
It is the addition of this kind of new functionality -- such as incorporating and sharing data from health monitoring devices -- that Kaiser Permanente users will be able to add to their personal e-health records running on the HealthVault platform, says Neupert.
Also, by making this data available to Kaiser Permanente patients via the Web-based Microsoft platform, patients are no longer "tethered" to Kaiser Permanente systems to access this data, especially if they change employers, health plans, or receive treatment from health-care providers that are not part of the Kaiser Permanente network, says John Moore, a managing partner at Chilmark Research, a Boston-based analyst firm.
"As a patient, I might have multiple caregivers at any time, dozens over a lifetime," he says. The approaches by Google and Microsoft both aim to provide consumers with platforms to gather and manage personal health information over the long haul, he says.
By aligning themselves with third-party sources for patient data and other tools, "Google and Microsoft are both making big platform plays as cloud-type providers of health data to consumers," he says. "
Kaiser says it will transfer from My Health Manager to HealthVault five basic data fields, including patient immunization, medication, allergies, and summary health information. This data will be transferred into patients' HealthVault personal e-health records using health industry import and export standards such as WC3 eXtensible Markup Language (XML), HL7 Continuity of Care Document (CCD), ASTM Continuity of Care Record (CCR), Clinical Document Architecture (CDA), and Common Connectivity Device.
The pilot will be offered to an unspecified number of Kaiser's 156,000 employees, most of who are also members of the Kaiser Permanente health plan and already have access to their health records electronically through the Kaiser Permanente system, My Health Manager.
Although KP hasn't specified how many employees it expects to volunteer for the pilot, Anna-Lisa Silvestre, Kaiser Permanente VP of online services says it'll likely be "at least 100." If Kaiser Permanente decides to later roll out the HealthVault interoperability to all 8 million-plus health plan members -- not just employees -- patients will be able to opt in to having their data exchanged with HealthVault.
"If the pilot is successful, over time [patients] will be able to choose other data fields" to move into the HealthVault platform besides the five initial ones, says Silvestre.
Kaiser Permanente already has what's believed to be the nation's largest rollout of e-medical records. To date, Kaiser Permanente health-care providers use the company's e-health records system in the care of about 2 million patients.