HealthVault breaks free from the desktop!

DANG it is fun to talk about HealthVault --- today the team propped another great release, and this one changes the face of the platform pretty radically. It is going to be really fun to see what new applications start popping up over the next few months.

We’ve gone mobile!

It’s become completely obvious that mobile devices are rapidly taking over as the primary way that folks communicate and compute in their daily lives. This makes complete sense for health, where virtually all meaningful activity happens away from our laptops: office visits, emergencies, workouts, daily glucose testing, sleeping, you name it.

That’s why I’m so excited that HealthVault is finally a first-class mobile citizen.

To start with, users who visit on their mobile device will now automatically see their information in a layout specially-designed for quick access during a health encounter. Filling out that clipboard AGAIN? Just pop up your browser and know exactly when you had that last tetanus shot, what year your knee surgery was, or how to spell hydrochlorothiazide. Pretty awesome!

But wait, there’s more --- we’ve also built client libraries for constructing rich, standalone HealthVault applications across all of the most popular phone platforms. The SDK and samples for Windows Phone 7 are available now; Apple iOS and Google Android will be available within weeks. (I will post again when these pop.)

The folks at Akvelon have already been pushing the envelope on this --- their very cool Health Guard app is already up on the WP7 marketplace. Woo hoo! I can’t wait to see more and more awesome, task-focused mobile applications start to come online. I’m working on one of my own, but it’s a secret! ;)

CCR/CCD Auto-Reconciliation

More and more clinical partners are sharing visit summaries with their patients in CCR and CCD format (doesn’t hurt that it’s a Meaningful Use objective). HealthVault is really good at accepting these files and breaking them apart into their component bits --- enabling folks to easily create, for example, comprehensive medication and allergy lists that they can use in other settings.

Up until now, initiating this “reconciliation” process was a manual step --- users had to sign into HealthVault and confirm they wanted to incorporate the items into their record. We took this conservative approach very deliberately, because it’s hard to do things like identify duplicate items that come from multiple sources, and we thought it was safer to let users manage the process themselves.

The obvious downside of this approach, though, was that it created a roadblock to efficient sharing between authorized applications. For example, an app that monitors a record for drug interactions couldn’t do its job completely until the user manually went through reconciliation --- which runs counter to the whole point of a “guardian angel” application in the first place.

Well, we’ve learned a ton since then about safely doing automatic reconciliation, and with this release we’ve enabled it by default. Users still have the ability to require manual intervention, and if we find something in the files we don’t understand we’ll always fall back to that option. But for most files we get, we’ll be able to make the data immediately available.

This is a great feature --- Matt and Jeff have been really persistent about making this process better and better and better. It’s just more evidence that we are thinking really hard about all the little details that have to come together to make the ecosystem work seamlessly.

Facebook Authentication!

Three years ago when we added OpenID as an authentication option to HealthVault, I explained our motivation like this:

As we've always said, HealthVault is about consumer control -- empowering individuals with tools that let them choose how to share and safeguard their personal health information. OpenID support is a natural fit for this approach, because it allows users to choose the "locksmith" that they are most comfortable with.

Today there’s a new “locksmith” in town. For many folks, Facebook is the Internet --- the social networking juggernaut has become the starting point for an incredibly broad swath of online activity, and “health” happens there all the time.

With this release, we’re acknowledging Facebook’s central role in people’s lives by allowing users to sign into HealthVault using their Facebook credentials. It’s important to note that this does NOT mean that HealthVault information will show up on your wall! Today, data only moves from Facebook to HealthVault, not the other way around --- we use your name, birthdate, etc. from Facebook to populate the HealthVault signup form, but that’s it.

(Note that there may be great opportunities to create native Facebook applications that include HealthVault data … we just want to be sure folks understand that it is not happening now, and would only ever happen with explicit, separate user opt-in.)

The Facebook team has been really supportive of our moves in this area. We have been super-impressed with the seriousness with which they’ve responded to recent security issues. It is also a perfect complement to our recently-announced “second factor” account protection option --- if they like, users can log in with their Facebook credentials but get an extra security boost by having HealthVault call them on their mobile for confirmation before granting access.

We’re really hopeful that, for those who choose it, this new option will make it even easier to integrate HealthVault into their daily lives. Just great stuff.


The team is already hard at work on what’s next for HealthVault. Want a hint? I’m not supposed to say – but think family safety. It’s going to be awesome too. I can’t wait!

PS. As always, the team has put out a great developer-focused post detailing of all of these features and the other stuff (like SSO, yippee!) we’ve delivered as part of this release on the HealthVault developer blog --- take a look!