Microsoft and health care

I don’t usually blog about health care, but Microsoft’s recent announcements in this area merit some comments. I am basing these on two articles I have read, one in the NY Times and one in the Economist.

I think there are three fundamental issues here, first is privacy, second is security and third is cost.

Privacy is very important, especially in the area of health care. We have to be sure that the data is only accessible to those who are authorized to see it, this includes the people who run the system. I know there is a tension between privacy and convenience but this is important stuff. I know that HIPAA is designed to protect patient’s privacy and provide them access to their medical record, but I am informed that a lot of institution pay no more than lip service to that.

Security in this case means two things. Is the system secure against break-ins and are the people accessing the system really who they say they are? Given Microsoft’s record in this area, some skepticism is warranted.

Finally cost. This is not going to be cheap, according to the Economist, the business model is built on targeted search:

Sean Nolan of Microsoft explains that the business model depends on one thing: targeted search. Microsoft is betting that people will use its Health Vault Search to find out about their ailments. This service relies on an approach known as “vertical search” which attempts to provide more relevant results than generalist search engines like Google and Yahoo! by specialising in a particular field. The firm’s recent acquisition of Medstory, a vertical-search engine focusing on health care, has given it a boost in this area.

It is hard to see how this will work given that there are many alternatives available to consumers out there such as MedlinePlus and Curbside.MD, to make but two.


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