Resources for HealthVault Application Developers

I’ve recently joined the Microsoft HealthVault team in a Solutions Architect role with a focus on assisting our partners and customers as they build great HealthVault integrated solutions.  
I’ve always enjoyed this type of role and look forward to the learning experiences that HealthVault will bring into my life.   One of the first such experiences is collaboration with the “Hacking Health” initiative underway now in Canada.   The Cajun Code-Fest is a similar event happening in the USA. 

In this post, I’ll seek to share a few tips for developers in the “Getting Started with HealthVault” phase of their solution development.   I’m using my personal blog for this information (instead of the team blog) as I’m also ramping-up on the platform technology and corresponding use-case scenarios.   Perhaps my perspective will be valuable to others.

The HealthVault platform provides several application connectivity models supporting a variety of workflow experiences.   For example, a typical on-premises healthcare clinical system may require a semi-automated HealthVault workflow involving direct patient interactions.   Alternatively, an analytical application may require minimal user-interactions and rather a fully-automated offline HealthVault interaction workflow.   In practice, most full-featured HealthVault solutions implement a combination of workflow scenarios depending upon a number of functional requirements including consumer-interaction, security model, deployment environment, data-management, and device integration. 

From a platform perspective, HealthVault supports an ecosystem of applications and devices.   The HealthVault platform is well-documented with open support for practically any web-based client solution.  However, for integrity and security purposes, programmatic access to real user accounts is controlled.  In order to access the production HealthVault service, client applications must be authorized to access not only the production service itself but also individual consumer accounts hosted therein.   The Consumer is truly the owner of their Health information.

In the USA, initiatives such as Meaningful Use and the Automated Blue Button Initiative are driving innovation in healthcare information systems technology.   A key objective is the simple and secure exchange of healthcare information between providers and patients.   The Direct Project has produced a reference implementation for trust-based encrypted message exchange that is quickly becoming the standard.   HealthVault users receive a free Direct Address and may utilize the HealthVault Message Center to participate in secure Direct communications.

Online services are also generating a great deal of innovative thinking.   The ability to compose a solution utilizing a number of online services not only increases the speed of implementation but also the richness of end-user experiences.  For example, clinical systems are really just customized Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.  Why not compose these systems utilizing Dynamics CRM Online and HealthVault?   Throw in Office365, Skype, Lync, and Windows Azure hosted services and you have a very powerful platform for quickly automating healthcare businesses.

Getting Started

Noteworthy Samples

  • Sean’s HealthVault Toys – Sean Nolan leads the HealthVault team and regularly contributes invaluable insights via the Family Health Guy blog.  He has recently posted a few interactive samples using an Azure WebSite.   Experiment with these to gain familiarity with various HealthVault Application models.
  • The HealthVault SDK Samples – When you download and install the HealthVault .NET SDK, you will find several samples hidden within the installation folder.  
  • Codeplex Projects, Java, MVC, and Win8 SDKs – Several “sample” projects hosted on also include class libraries that are sneaking-out the door as SDKs in their own right.   You can re-use these class libraries as reference assemblies (you get the source too) within your applications.   The Java library provides a thin abstraction layer over the raw XML over HTTP HealthVault Platform API and is a good way to build system-independent solutions.   The Win8 library enables development of new Windows Store style HealthVault Applications.
  • Oldies but Goodies – Eric wrote a number of how-to type topical articles several years ago.   They remain very relevant resources.


And, of course, contact us if you have a great idea for a HealthVault Application and need a bit of technical assistance getting it going!

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