Microsoft officially entered the fitness tracker market last week with its $199 Band bracelet, as well as a new health app and a new cloud-based data storage and integration platform called Microsoft Health Service. Microsoft’s existing health platform — HealthVault — wasn’t mentioned much.
Some (me) had predicted that Microsoft’s new health wearable would report data up into HealthVault, potentially revitalizing the platform as Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s HealthKit, Google’s Google Fit, and Samsung’s SAMI ecosystems.
But no. Members of the Band team at Microsoft told VentureBeat that HealthVault will be used to address aggregation and integration needs of health providers. It will operate behind the scenes, out of the view of most consumers.
For instance, the Cleveland Clinic’s associate CIO Dr. Will Morris told VentureBeat this summer that the clinic was using HealthVault as the integration platform for its Distance Health program. In this program, patients who are located far away from Cleveland Clinic use health monitoring devices that report data into HealthVault, where it can be accessed by doctors.
Asked if HealthVault’s mission has changed in the wake of the announcement of the Band and the Health app, members of Microsoft’s HealthVault team told VentureBeat that the service will work in concert with its newly announced products.
“The service works with hundreds of apps and devices, including Microsoft Health, to enable access anywhere on any device,” the company wrote in an email. “Microsoft Health will allow you, at your choosing, to connect your Microsoft Health data to Microsoft HealthVault to share with your medical provider.”
But Microsoft won’t say how many people use HealthVault today. And you won’t see any TV commercials hyping HealthVault to consumers, either. The main push is happening behind clinic and hospital walls: Microsoft is offering HealthVault to health providers as a pre-built tool to satisfy the patient data sharing requirements in the meaningful use guidelines of the HITECH Act.
“Yes, HealthVault is Meaningful Use Stage 2 certified for view, download, or transmit (VDT),” Microsoft writes in the email.
Health care provider organizations are also using HealthVault as a place where patients can upload data from clinical monitoring devices, like blood sugar monitors or heart monitors. “HealthVault enables providers to gain and use patient insight when patients are outside of a clinic or hospital’s four walls,” Microsoft writes.
Microsoft points out that payers (like insurance carriers or self-insured employers) might use the platform to connect to users’ health wearables as part of a wellness program. Or they could use HealthVault to make sure members are taking their medications.
More interestingly, HealthVault might be used to predict future health problems. “For example, payers can use HealthVault to gather and share patient data, based on the patient’s permission, to identify areas for early intervention of specific conditions,” Microsoft says. “This can help improve wellness and reduce costs.”
Microsoft is using HealthVault to play a more important role than just a consumer health data platform. The service is providing a neccessary (and hard to build) link between consumer biometrics and other health data and the doctors who might use it to provide better care.