Partnership Extends Microsoft HealthVault to Canada

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Microsoft has expanded its HealthVault e-health service to Canada through a partnership with Telus, marking the first time HealthVault will be available outside the U.S.

Telus, a telecommunications company based in Toronto, is licensing HealthVault and plans to set up a service for Canadians based on it called Telus Health Space, powered by Microsoft HealthVault, the companies said this week.

The service will make it possible for people in Canada to manage and store their personal health information online and have access in one place to applications to manage personal health records as well as help them with chronic disease management, pediatric care and wellness products, the companies said. HealthVault is Microsoft's online repository for personal health-care information and records.

Telus plans to make Health Space available to governments, health regions, hospitals, insurers and employers who want to offer a consumer health platform to their citizens and patients. Microsoft is working with Telus to find developers, application providers and device manufacturers to create software and devices compatible with Health Space. The companies did not say when the service would be available.

Indeed, ready access to personal health-care information has been a perennial problem, especially for people in the U.S. In fact, the findings of a two-year study published recently in a paper in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that people generally feel disconnected from their health-care information and are interested in being given access to it through a personally controlled health-record system, of which HealthVault if one.

However, the study found that people do not entirely trust the companies and individuals that oversee the storage and maintenance of their records. The study, which polled 300 people ranging in age from 18 to 83, found that people had concerns about the quality, accuracy and point of responsibility for maintaining their health-care records, and also expressed uncertainty about appropriate and safe access policies for third parties that might be reading and editing the records.

About two years ago Microsoft re-evaluated its offerings for the health-care industry. The company directed its efforts to bridging the information gap between enterprise companies, such as health-insurance providers, and patients through an online system that allows them to share information securely over the Web. Microsoft came up with HealthVault to solve that problem. Competitor Google also is piloting similar offerings.

Since it first launched HealthVault in late 2007, Microsoft has been briskly setting up partnerships with large health-care providers in the U.S. to make the service available to as many people as possible. The Mayo Clinic recently launched the first widely available e-health information service for HealthVault with its Mayo Clinic Health Manager service. Kaiser Permanente and New York Presbyterian Hospital, among others, also are testing services built using HealthVault.

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