While the Cleveland Clinic is still waiting for Apple’s HealthKit platform to work out its bugs, the renowned health provider has quietly been using Microsoft HealthVault to keep tabs on remote or at-risk patients.
But HealthVault may be one of the most mature platforms available to providers, and Cleveland Clinic is using it to care for patients in its “Distance Health” program, Morris told VentureBeat Monday.
Cleveland Clinic and Microsoft began working together on a pilot way back in 2008, when consumer health data platforms were, for the most part, far from top of mind for most companies. Google Health launched in 2008, but Sergey and Larry soon thought better of the idea and shut it down.
“We already can connect with many different devices like remote monitors in the patient’s home or with glucose monitors or heart monitors like those from AliveCor,” Morris says. “We roll that all up under our Distance Health program.”
Morris told VentureBeat that that program is a multidisciplinary outreach effort that uses medical devices connected to Microsoft’s HealthVault platform to monitor and engage patients who live far away, or who need to check in but don’t need a doctor’s in-person attention.
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Defined in Microsoft’s terms, HealthVault is a Web-based patient-data storage and sharing platform. Using the platform, patients can use connected devices and apps to measure things like their weight, blood glucose, or blood pressure. They then upload the data to their personal HealthVault account. With the patients’ consent, the information is shared with Cleveland Clinic’s electronic medical record system (Epic Systems), where a physician can review and, if necessary, act upon it.
The HealthVault platform uses a “trust identity framework” to make sure information is shared only with people who need to see it, Morris says. Such frameworks are used in many electronic health records systems.
A Microsoft spokesperson told me that Microsoft signs a “business associate” agreement with its health provider clients, making it responsible for any loss of patient data or HIPAA federal privacy breaches. Apple is likely under no such obligation because HealthKit acts as more of a traffic cop, telling devices and apps when and how to share data with other devices and apps, but never storing sensitive data. HealthVault, on the other hand, clearly stores live clinical data.
Morris points out that remote-patient monitoring platforms can be hugely helpful to diabetes patients who need to regularly check in with their doctor, but who don’t need to come into the office just to say “everything’s OK.” A remote check-in saves the patient the hassle of driving to the clinic and frees up time in which the doctor can see other patients.
Morris says the remote monitoring devices used in the Distance Health program run “thick clients,” suggesting that there’s a piece of software installed on the patient’s phone or desktop keyboard. Many of the devices plug directly into the patient’s phone instead of using Bluetooth, Morris says.
The Cleveland Clinic program is exemplary of Microsoft’s desire to address key pain points in the care delivery system. Microsoft says its work is enterprise-focused, building systems that connect physicians with at-risk patients.
As for Apple’s HealthKit, which has been delayed due to bugs that arose near launch day, Morris says Cleveland Clinic has been looking at the software development kit, but has “no specific pilot” in progress that would use the platform.