A quick note about oxygen

We’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks talking about moving data around – making it easy for providers, patients and their caregivers to get the right information at the right time to make critical care decisions, correlate effect to cause to improve outcomes, do important research, and just save money. It’s a big deal and we care about it a lot.

Much of this movement happens within institutions and is bound by HIPAA regulation. But I was surprised during one such conversation to be asked – does this mean you’re backing off of your commitment to patient privacy in HealthVault? My initial reaction was one of confusion – I just didn’t get the relation of the question to the discussion at hand (however, in retrospect my response  — “are you nuts?” — could have been more measured).

Consumer privacy — enabled by real transparency, awareness, consent and security — is a foundational component of any kind of real and scalable data liquidity, especially beyond the walls of any given institution. Individuals must have access to their information; they must be confident that it can be shared and used in ways they understand and value; and just as importantly that it cannot be shared and used in ways they object to.

It’s important to note that this approach does not prevent any particular use of health information – even mining, aggregation and monetization. As long as individuals understand and accept that use, it is certainly not up to Microsoft to say they cannot participate.

Real privacy is essential to consumer-centric healthcare. As my friend Michael Stokes says, this is the oxygen we breathe. Just to be clear.