I had the opportunity to speak with Microsoft SVP Peter Neupert today, on a conference call with a few other health care bloggers. He was wrapping up the Microsoft connected health conference (check out the tweetstream at #msftchc, which this year brought the HealthVault developers and Amalga users together for the first time, and he seemed jazzed about the synergies.
Neupert described himself as a "technology optimist," and described Microsoft's current phase of activity as "putting technology pillars in place" so that folks can build applications on the HealthVault open platform. He acknowledged the difficulties in getting providers and patients to jump aboard, however, noting that physicians have concerns about the reliability of patient-entered data (which communication-enabled devices can now upload automatically) and patients have a variety of concerns about uploading personal health information online.
One of the panels at the conference included David Kibbe discussing the need for modular EHRs for small physician practices. In response to a question, Neupert described some of his efforts together with the Markle Foundation to articulate a framework for "meaningful use" that would be more focused on outcomes than on the technology itself. I've discussed before the problems of certification through a set of standards promoted by current market leaders — it could stifle innovation and limit availability of tools appropriate for a variety of practice settings. Neupert recounted an experience in California a number of years ago where promotion of e-prescribing by giving away computers and software to physicians resulted in only minimal adoption. Adoption by physicians will occur if the tools are useful and can adapt to physician workflow, or if the case can be made that workflow ought to change. Cleveland Clinic and Kaiser Permanente pilot projects have been exploring this issue.
Other issues raised included mHealth, to which Neupert responded that the HealthVault platform is device-agnostic, and that mobile developers were represented at the conference, and HIPAA concerns as a potential barrier to provider and patient adoption. Neupert joked, "I've never heard of HIPAA; I don't know what that means." He then noted that the HIPAA conversation comes at different points in the dialogue, depending on whether the dialogue is with providers (comes earlier) or patients (comes later).
Bottom line: It's early yet, folks, but HealthVault has significant promise as an open platform for health care records and their many uses. We'll see how long it takes to realize that potential.
Update 6/25/09: Archived presentations and videos from the 2009 Connected Health Conference are now available on line.