Microsoft's October launch of HealthVault -- a free, online consumer health offering that allows individuals to manage their health information, often through automated links with providers -- was accompanied by a slew of partnership agreements with healthcare providers, vendors and other organizations. And as Peter Neupert, the Microsoft VP in charge of the company's health group, told The New York Times, "The value of what we're doing will go up rapidly as we get more partners."
But while Microsoft announced partnerships with organizations such as New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association, announcements involving insurance companies were conspicuously absent. But that likely will change, according to Sean Nolan, chief architect of Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft's health solutions group. "We are talking with many or most of the major [health] plans nationwide," he says. "We really hope that they do become a key part of the [HealthVault] ecosystem because there is certainly data that consumers have within their plans, both financial and clinical, that would be extremely useful to them."
Nolan suggests that HealthVault provides value that complements carriers' services. "The information [insurers] have is very valuable for people to get into their aggregated [healthcare] view," Nolan continues, adding, "At the same time, there's a set of things -- such as researching claims -- that should continue to happen [only] in a portal or in an experience provided by those plans."
There was one insurance-related partnership announced along with the HealthVault launch. New York-based health management services vendor ActiveHealth's interactive personal health record (PHR), known as ActivePHR, will be featured on the platform, according to Microsoft.
Lonny Reisman, CEO of ActiveHealth, an independent Aetna subsidiary, describes HealthVault as an aggregator of healthcare and patient data. The ActivePHR product is able to analyze that data and alert consumers to areas of their healthcare that may be suboptimal, including potential misdiagnoses or improper prescriptions, he explains.
Data from insurance carriers, Reisman says, would be a significant contribution to HealthVault. "What I would like to see happen is that, ultimately, consumers will have the ability to access data from their health plans, PBMs [pharmacy benefit managers] and other managed care entities so that the data residing in the HealthVault is as comprehensive as possible," he relates. "Then we'd have the additional advantage of being able to sort through and analyze all that data in an attempt to optimize the member's care."
HealthVault's potential for portability could turn out to be its biggest value. The challenge for many carrier-specific and provider-specific PHRs is that users often are unable to take their data with them when they relocate or switch coverage, according to experts. "That's the key appeal of [HealthVault] -- it's yours, and it's employer- and health plan-independent," Reisman says.
However, that independence could create challenges for Microsoft when it comes to linking individual users' health plan data to HealthVault. Reisman notes that ActiveHealth, for instance, typically has the benefit of dealing with customers as large groups and working with them through employers or health plans. Microsoft, thus far, doesn't have that luxury. "Getting individual health plan-related data from the individual member into HealthVault might be challenging," he cautions.
Carrier partnerships, of course, would help alleviate that problem. "We'll see how Microsoft's relationship with the carriers evolves," Reisman says. "The question is how aggressive consumers will be in getting that data or how successful Microsoft will be in getting the additional managed care data."
Aetna Launches Real-Time Electronic Health Records
Carrier-based electronic health record provides health alerts and recommendations on a real-time basis.
AHIP Looks to Standardize Personal Health Records
As health insurers realize the value of personal health records, AHIP looks to make them more portable.