Momentum: Connectivity and "Direct-to-Clinical"

Data connectivity is key to HealthVault's ultimate success. Before people can do great things with consolidated health information, they have to have consolidated health information. Many great consumer-focused efforts in health fail -- not because they aren't potentially super-valuable, but because they force users to manually enter their information and keep it up to date. Except for a very few of us -- people dealing with serious chronic issues for one, and obsessive data geeks like my boss for another -- folks just don't do this.

So we spend a bunch of time thinking about how to increase what we call "data liquidity" (a term only an engineer could love) -- how do we create pipes that let people easily and securely move data back and forth between their Vault and primary care doctors, specialists, hospitals, pharmacies, and so on, all under their consent and control.

For better or worse, we are breaking new ground here, so there's lots of work to do. The first challenge is how to reliably connect "identifiers" ... that is, how does my doctor know which HealthVault record is really mine? And what prevents me from claiming medical records that belong to the other Sean Nolan that happens to live in Bellevue?

Back in October, we started with an initial model for this kind of connectivity based around patient portals. Just as almost all banks now provide web-based portals that give customers a view of their accounts, more and more hospitals and other providers are doing the same. Patient portals often provide features like scheduling appointments or emailing your doctor -- great stuff. And having a portal means that the provider has a way to trust who you are when you're online.

It's super-easy to "HealthVault-enable" these systems. Users simply log into their provider portal, click a new button to "connect" with HealthVault, log into HealthVault as with any other application, and go through the standard authorization step that asks the user which types of information they want to exchange with the provider. Magic! This is exactly what folks like Kryptiq and MEDSEEK have implemented for their customers -- and it works great. Progress!

But here's the thing -- patient portals are still pretty much the exception. So it's a good start and a good trend, but to really kickstart things we've needed another model as well, one that doesn't require the provider to start with a patient-facing web experience -- we've come to call this option "direct-to-clinical."

Over the last couple of months, I've seen our direct-to-clinical solution grow from a gleam in the eye of one of our most dogged partner advocates, to a robust and easy-to-implement technical solution, to most recently a set of super-compelling demonstration videos highlighting how real partners will be leveraging the technology.

We're going to make these demos available next week at Microsoft's booth at the HIMSS conference in Orlando, and they will be posted online at as well. These demos are awesome -- they do a super job of making the connectivity real, and highlight a bunch of different scenarios that only become possible once patients are connected. If you're going to be at HIMSS, be sure to check them out (pick up a copy of our new HealthVault ecosystem poster too!) ... and if you're not, I'll be sure to post a quick note when they go live at

The technology will appear in our SDK in just a couple of months. One more issue taken care of; that leaves just -- well -- thousands to go. This is what Microsoft is good at -- knocking them down, one at a time, over the long term. More to come!

Edited on 2/20 to include a link to the HV ecosystem poster