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Recently, Microsoft Corporation announced the launch of Health Vault, a new, free service that allows anyone who needs an individual’s health information to view it online. While this is a great idea and is sorely needed to reduce health care costs and reduce errors, it is a long way from meeting the goal of creating a universal health record. This is, in part, due to the enormous technical difficulties involved but, even more important, falls short because of the intricacies and complexities of individuals’ health records and the myriad of related privacy issues involved that are far from resolution. Many issues need to be addressed to assure appropriate safeguards are in place to protect this information from those who should not see it. Microsoft is hoping to assuage most of these concerns by putting the consumer in charge of who sees what–and that’s all well and good.

I signed up for this service by completing the relatively brief registration process. While the site is well designed and shows promise for the future, it has a limited number of “partners” which can, with the client’s permission, share files into it. The client, if they have access to their own files in a computerized format, can upload health information that can then be viewed by others who have permission.

Though this effort is laudable, it is really just another free personal health record site that hopes to generate revenue through advertising. There are many others like it. The concept of partnering with others who may have information about the client shows promise of an added benefit that isn’t currently available, but it is so limited at this point that it is not likely to be of use to very many people. But, if any company is able to garner the resources to make a serious effort at accomplishing this task, Microsoft can. Perhaps this effort will provide a spark that will spawn a more serious effort to accomplish this important goal.

Your comments are welcome…