A new version of HealthVault, expected to be released by Microsoft in the third quarter, aims to let personal health records (PHR) flow from patients to providers to hospitals and back again.
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Dubbed HealthVault Community Connect and built atop SharePoint, the product establishes the following workflow, according to David Cerino, general manager for Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group.
- A patient preregisters at home for an appointment, using a process that’s similar to checking in online for an airline flight.
- When the patient arrives at the medical facility, the admissions staff calls up the patient’s HealthVault account, which includes the demographic and medical information that typically is written down on a paper form on a clipboard.
- During the appointment, the doctor adds notes to the patient’s HealthVault account as needed.
- After the appointment, discharge information and instructions appear in the patient’s HealthVault account and can be forwarded to his or her primary physician.
“This is a roundtrip of data that does not happen today,” Cerino said. “We are now closing the loop electronically to all that clinical information flowing.”
Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital, a physical rehabilitation facility in Jacksonville, Fla., that’s an early adopter of HealthVault Community Connect, is starting with the product’s core features, including preregistration, discharge instructions and access for external providers.
But the hospital’s CIO Karen Green sees a lot of potential in HealthVault, particularly for patients who need significant rehabilitation or follow-up care. These patients, for example, can track diet and exercise regimens and use HealthVault to share that information with physicians. Going one step further, certain USB- or Bluetooth-enabled medical devices, such as blood pressure monitors, post data directly to HealthVault, Cerino noted.
(It’s worth pointing out that HealthVault is a consumer-controlled application, meaning that the PHRs belong to the patient. Physicians can add information but cannot modify info that patients or devices have added, Cerino said.)
The challenge with the application, as with almost every brand of health technology, is user education. Green’s approach is to introduce physicians and clinicians to HealthVault and the vision behind it before she dives into the HealthVault Community Connect portal. (It helps that Brooks Rehabilitation rolled out SharePoint two years ago.) “That vision is not out there yet,” she said. “You have to present that vision to them.”
Patient engagement matters as well, not just for HealthVault but for all PHR services. As Green pointed out, most hospital discharge papers are “summarily lost within a day or two,” making it all too easy to neglect the doctor’s recommendations. Removing paper from the equation — and giving patients a system that charts their progress and prompts physicians to provide feedback — boosts the odds that patients will actively work to get and stay healthy.