Microsoft, Google Joust—and Concur—On Personal Health Records

22 Nov Microsoft, Google Joust—and Concur—On Personal Health Records

CRN, NY, By Chad Berndtson, November 20, 2008
They may be cutthroat competitors. But tried as their representatives did to explain the fundamental differences between two personal health record (PHR) platforms, Microsoft and Google also may yet have some detente—at least when it comes to the like-minded goal of managing vast quantities of personal health information to benefit end users. Appearing at the Mastermind Session at Everything Channel’s Healthcare Summit in San Diego this week, Grad Conn, Microsoft Senior Director of Global Consumer Health Strategy in the Health Solutions Group, and Alfred Spector, Google Vice President of Research and Special Initiatives, fielded more than an hour of questions from both Gartner analysts and audience members regarding Microsoft HealthVault and Google Health. Google Health is a PHR in which users can voluntarily enter their health records and create one, centralized profile. Privacy concerns have dogged the concept since it was unveiled in May 2008, though Google has maintained that it will not sell advertisements in Google Health. For its effors, the Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant has initially partnered with Walgreens, CVS, Quest Diagnostics, Beth Israel DeaconessMedical Center and other entities. Its application programming interface is based on the Continuity of Card Record (CCR)—an XML-based standard for health records developed to allow physicians to create and transfer electronic health records with ease. Microsoft HealthVault, which launched in October 2007, is also a PHR platform designed to store and access personal health and fitness information. It combines single HealthVault records—the storage piece—with access provided by Windows Live ID, with Live Search Health, a search engine that allows HealthVault users to search for health and fitness information. HealthVault accomodates both the CCR standard and the Continuity of Care Document (CCD) standard, which was approved in 2007 and whose proponents say essentially harmonizes HL7 Clinical Document Architecture (CDA) and the CCR. Since their release, both Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault have been met with a number of usability questions, and Gartner kicked off the panel by asking about specific differences in the offerings. “Neither one takes the data from your health record and uses that to tune up a search,” suggested Gartner Vice President and distinguished analyst Wes Rishel. “Both have a very strong philosophy that this is the consumer’s data. They have control over the data, to make it go away or make it never be there in terms of how they use the product. If there’s a difference at all, it’s under what circumstances?” Spector first reiterated that Google’s advertising platform would not come into play in Google Health.