John Moore wrote an interesting post this weekend asking if Google Health was at risk of shutting down – and wondering if the resulting lack of competition would cause us here at Microsoft to let HealthVault stagnate. John is really good at bringing up the provocative questions.
I don’t have any great information on the first one. It’s clear that the folks at Google are working with a much smaller investment than we are, but I still see them plugging away on their developer forums and as part of groups I’m spending my time on like NHIN Direct. They still seem like they’re making progress to me. Who knows.
As for the second one — well, don’t be concerned. Because while it’s always fun to play Spy vs. Spy with Google, our real competition is the idea that any one provider or company can solve the problems facing our healthcare system today. The problem is tethered single-system PHRs and portals that say, “I’ll take care of everything for you, even though I only handle a small fraction of your actual care.” It’s EMR vendors that say, “Sure you can report on our data, so long as you don’t ask anything we haven’t already thought of.” And it’s short-sighted politicians that stifle market innovation by perpetuating “pay-for-volume” as our primary industry incentive.
See, that’s why I believe Microsoft is the right company to help, and why I’m here as part of the effort. HealthVault is a critical component in our broader project strategy — which is to (1) connect care across the ecosystem, from the home to the clinic to the hospital to the research lab, and (2) do so in a way that includes and encourages innovation from as many different organizations as possible. Frankly, we bring pretty good DNA to the party for both of these objectives.
We’re all for an army of patient activists, but we aren’t so naïve as to believe that the availability of an online tool is going to get everyone excited about tracking their health history. Much to the contrary, the success of HealthVault will be in how invisible we can make it: automatically helping you prepare and register for visits with your hospital and providers; encouraging “guardian angels” that watch over your data and alert you when something dangerous may be going on or when new treatments are available; or ensuring that the right people have the information they need to care for you in an emergency. Trust me, we’re hard at work on this stuff!
So don’t make the mistake of evaluating any one piece of the puzzle in isolation. Microsoft is in this game because we believe we can make a real difference in the quality and efficiency of care, and that we can deliver significant value for our shareholders while doing so.