Thoughts on Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault

Intro and Basic functionality:

This is a slight difference between the two.

Microsoft HealthVault is a web-based platform from Microsoft to store and maintain health and fitness information for both individuals and healthcare professionals. A HealthVault record stores an individual’s health information. Access to a record is through a HealthVault account, which may be authorized to access records for multiple individuals, so that a mother may manage records for each of her children or a son may have access to his father’s record to help the father deal with medical issues. Access to the account is through Windows Live ID or a limited set of OpenID providers.

Google Health is a personal health centralization service. It allows users to volunteer their health records, merging things like health conditions, medications, allergies, lab results, and medical history. Google Health can currently import medical and/or drug prescription information from the following partners: The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, The Cleveland Clinic, Longs Drugs, Medco Health Solutions, Quest Diagnostics, RxAmerica, Walgreens, SafeMed, and Healthgrades. (An Intro to Google Health and HealthVault, Michael Alden Eaton, http://blog.aldeneaton.com/?p=30)

However, both of them share the following features:

* manage health information online

* track your progress

* share your health information

* personalize your health needs with content and Apps/Devices

Address the following in the context of interacting with physician’s offices, hospitals, and other healthcare providers.

Security:

Both of Google and Microsoft is using very sophistic technologies to protect user information. So security would not be a big issue. Microsoft explicitly points it out on its website that “security measures can include computer safeguards, secured files, and employee security training. PHR companies may be required by law to notify you about particular data breaches“ (Security Measures, Microsoft’s PHR Data Practices for HealthVault, http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/healthvault/MicrosoftsPHRDataPracticesforHealthVault.aspx).

Privacy:

HealthVault: It’s your HealthVault record. You decide what goes into it, who can see, use, and share your info, and which health tools have access to it. (Privacy, Microsoft HealthVault, http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/healthvault/)

Google Health is an opt-in service, meaning it can only access medical information volunteered by individuals. It does not retrieve any part of a person’s medical records without his or her explicit consent and action. However, it does encourage users to set up profiles for other individuals.

However, Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault are both not considered a “covered entity” under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996; thus, HIPAA privacy laws do not apply to them. On one hand, although both companies announced to carefully keep health records safe and private, some patients still have qualms that their personal health information might not be secure if held by a large technology company. On the other hand, others contend that Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault may be more private than the current ‘paper’ health record system because of reduced human interaction.

Use of Technology:

Google Health:

Patients can view and edit their health records on any convenient web-based devices.

HealthVault works with monitor apps and devices to monitor the patients’ fitness condition and may give some good suggestions.

Microsoft HealthVault:

Besides of the two above features that Google Health has, Microsoft HealthVault also can record and analyze people’s food habits and give decent advices to make users eat healthy.

PS: Google Health is retiring on January 1, 2012, because they haven’t archived their goal to spread online healthcare to millions of users.