HealthVault service and Windows 8.
Microsoft introduced its HealthVault personal health record service in 2007, and it has grown into one of the leaders in its category, promoted through partnerships with organizations such as AARP. Users can authorize the app to pull data from healthcare providers and pharmacy services so it is aggregated in one place. Microsoft has created a HealthVault app for Windows 8 and ran a contest this summer to encourage other developers to create apps that would tap into HealthVault as a back-end data service.
The winning team was led by Zaher Hajar, a research fellow with the Center for Consumer Health Informatics Research, part of the College of Pharmacy at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, in partnership with developers from Techmind, a small software development shop from Poland specializing in Windows mobile technologies. The concept was developed at Nova, but the coding was done by Techmind. The prize was for an early prototype of their app, called Health eConnect, which is designed to gather data from other health monitoring devices and present it in the app in an easy to understand way. The prototype, produced in just a month, featured the example of working with wireless home health devices for monitoring blood pressure, which are now inexpensively available.
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Because consumers can configure HealthVault to access their pharmacy records from major chains such as Walgreens and CVS, the Health eConnect app works with the cloud service to correlate changes in blood pressure with information about drug interactions and side effects and present this information to the consumer in an intelligible way. Hajar envisions the app also taking in information from glucometers, pedometers, and other gadgets and providing consumers with "clues about their health."
The team was awarded $10,000, a Microsoft Surface Pro, and status as a Microsoft preferred partner for Windows 8 development for the next two years.
"The prize is not as important as the other elements," Hajar said. Winning the contest means Microsoft will work with the informatics center as a coach, so that the final version of the app will be ready to launch in the Windows 8 app store by the end of the year, he said. Microsoft will also waive some of its standard fees for listing an app.
Nova's Health eConnect app.
The Surface Pro is a Microsoft-made tablet computer, still struggling to find its market, and this contest is one way of promoting its potential uses in healthcare.
Hajar said the informatics center had "a particular interest" in developing mobile health apps for Windows, "which is not tapped into as much, compared with the Apple operating system." The app initially targets Windows 8 tablets, although the developers also hope to bring it to Windows phones.
"The phone is a natural outlet because of its ubiquity, and it also allows integration into other wireless devices," said Kevin Clauson, an associate professor of pharmacy and director of the consumer informatics center. The center was established two years ago with the mission of studying, and contributing to the trend toward "participatory medicine" in which patients take greater control over their own healthcare, he said.
Windows phones are not as ubiquitous as iPhones or Android phones, but the Nova group made a specific decision to focus on the Windows platform, which is of interest to many healthcare organizations because of the potential for integration with other Windows-based technologies, Clauson said.
The center has targeted other mobile platforms for other projects, such as its ReMIND Study (Resolving Medication Issues for Non-Adherence in Diabetes), which leveraged a TonicHealth medical data collection app for the iPad and SMS messaging reminders for any phone via the Memotext service.
Hajar said his team of developers will work on getting the app working for Windows 8 initially, but he concedes that to make the service truly useful it should also be available on other platforms. "You have to follow the market, and what's in the patient's hands," he said.
The Microsoft contest winners were announced late last month at Health 2.0 News, which cosponsored the contest. Entries were judged on creativity and innovation, potential to promote patient engagement, use of Windows 8 features, and their ability to demonstrate meaningful integration with HealthVault.