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6/16/2011
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Microsoft Unlocks Mobile Access To HealthVault

Personal health record's software development kit makes it easier to develop healthcare apps for Windows Phone 7, iPhone, and Android.

12 Innovative Mobile Healthcare Apps
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Microsoft has added mobile connectivity to its HealthVault personal health record platform, making it easier to develop health apps for its Windows Phone 7 smartphone and increasing competition in the mobile healthcare space.

The company has built client libraries for constructing standalone HealthVault applications across all of the most popular phone platforms. The software development kit and samples for the Windows Phone 7 are available now and will be made available for Apple iOS and Google Android within weeks, said Sean Nolan, chief architect for Microsoft's health solutions group in a recent blog post.

In an interview, Nolan said it's important to expand HealthVault so that patients can use their mobile phones to track medical test results and blood pressure readings and keep up with doctor visits.

"In health, where virtually all meaningful activity happens away from our laptops: office visits, emergencies, workouts, daily glucose testing, eating, sleeping, you name it, it makes a lot of sense to make HealthVault available where people can easily use it," Nolan said. "Making it easier for developers to create innovative mobile apps will enable consumers to collect and use their health information in new and interesting ways."

Microsoft's latest move comes at a time when there has been a flurry of activity among software developers who have built health apps for the Apple iPhone.

According to Nolan, he is looking forward to competing in the health apps market. "Just as nearly half of HealthVault Web applications do not use our .NET Web platform, we expect many mobile apps will not use our Windows Phone 7 platform. We're excited about the competition that implies--it's great for consumers, and frankly we're very confident that our development platforms will continue to win on their own merits," Nolan said.

Just last month, Akvelon released Health Guard, a mobile application designed specifically for HealthVault and Windows Phone 7. The Health Guard application enables customers to keep a record of their personal health information such as blood pressure, pulse, and weight, and allows them and their doctors to track these measures over time.

Recent research from PricewaterhouseCoopers reveals just how lucrative the health apps market is expected to be; consumers say they are willing to spend $700 million for mobile health applications. Younger people are also more likely to adopt these devices, with 30% of consumers aged 18 to 24 saying they are more likely to spend out-of-pocket for health apps or programs to monitor and track health conditions, compared with 12% of consumers aged 65 and older, the PwC report said.

There have also been other improvements to HealthVault, including allowing Continuity of Care Records (CCR) and Continuity of Care Documents (CCD) that are uploaded by an application to be automatically reconciled.

Nolan said previously users had to manually sign into HealthVault and confirm they wanted to incorporate the documents into their record. That process created a barrier to the efficient sharing of clinical information among authorized applications. HealthVault's added automatic reconciliation feature gives users the opportunity to sidestep the manual process. Manual reconciliation will, however, still be required for conditions without ICD-9 or ICD-10 codes, as HealthVault considers them as possibly sourced from billing data.

Microsoft has also added social networking capabilities to HealthVault. According to Nolan, the latest upgrades allow users to sign into HealthVault using their Facebook credentials. "With this release, we're acknowledging Facebook's central role in people's lives," Nolan said in his blog.

The Healthcare IT Leadership Forum is a day-long venue where senior IT leaders in healthcare come together to discuss how they're using technology to improve clinical care. It happens in New York City on July 12. Find out more.

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