Fed panel tips hat to Microsoft, Google, Dossia for advances in PHR use

By Diana Manos
12:00 AM

Microsoft, Google and Dossia have played a key role in advancing the use of personal health records, according to members of the American Health Information Community.

At a Tuesday AHIC meeting, members of the federal advisory panel hailed these three utility service models as "leading innovators," responsible for a major surge in the use of PHRs.

"PHRs are a very dynamic market," said Nancy Davenport-Ennis, chairman of the AHIC Consumer Empowerment Workgroup. "Today there are more than 200 solutions, some through independent systems, some through providers, employers and consumer-controlled groups. This is a great step forward from when AHIC started 23 meetings ago."

John Moore of Chilmark Research, a presenter at AHIC's meeting, said PHRs are used to control behavioral change in patients and lower healthcare costs. But obstacles remain – doctors are skeptical about their accuracy, and portability is "all over the map."

Moore said the utility service models, such as those provided by Dossia, Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault, allow consumers to stay firmly in control of their records, and portability has been demonstrated.

"These groups are doing the heavy lifting that other groups can't do now," he said. "Adoption potential is high because the value is high."

If Google and Microsoft ever violated privacy laws, "it would be a disaster for them," Moore said. "They have a very vested interest in keeping privacy. Google, Microsoft and Dossia have really raised the level of expectations across the whole market."

William Crawford, of Children's Hospital in Boston, said Dossia was created to control medical loss management and is not designed to filter out particular employees based on health issues.

Dossia is a non-profit, Web-based framework through which U.S. employees, dependents and retirees can maintain lifelong personal health records. Applied Materials, BP America, the Intel Corporation, Pitney Bowes and Wal-Mart funded the project.

"We have been very aligned right from the beginning that this is a patient-centered service to give people more tools to manage their own health," Crawford said. "No employee of our company is required to use Dossia, but they are all given the opportunity to use it. We can change healthcare by helping people to help themselves."

Sean Nolan, of the Health Solutions Group at Microsoft, said the company launched HealthVault 10 months ago because it is in the business of connecting diverse data silos. HealthVault allows consumers to store their personal health information in a secure "vault," releasing it to whomever they please. HealthVault is a platform used by other entities to build PHR systems.

"We saw a need and filled it," Nolan said. "We made a bet that the individual – the consumer –would be the most motivated and effective agent to connect the silos."

"We believe that the silos of information, the lack of consistent records and lack of core infrastructure has stifled innovations in healthcare," Nolan added. "It is difficult to see, but there are simple things to save lives right now with just a little bit of data people can trust."

Nolan said Microsoft did not create HealthVault to compete with other PHR vendors. "We're not actually competing with anybody in this business," he said. "We are competing with the 80 percent of the world that is still using paper."

He added that the created infrastructure will stimulate business for Microsoft in other areas.

Last month, more than 300 partner companies attended Microsoft's conference on HealthVault. Microsoft will issue $14.5 million in grants to companies for building on the HealthVault platform.

"There is some momentum that is very exciting to see," Nolan said.

Google Health is a secure online service provided free for consumers who wish to store their personal health information. A representative of Google was not present at the AHIC meeting.

How do you think PHR vendors will fare against the "heavy lifting" of the utility service models like Microsoft, Google and Dossia? Send your comments to Senior Editor Diana Manos at diana.manos@medtechpublishing.com.

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