Microsoft Unveils HealthVault

The site offers information and networking, but it falls short for managing health records.

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Tracking health records and costs is a bear for consumers, beset with a maze of providers, paperwork, and bills. Tech companies smell opportunity and are racing to tame the beast with Web tools and software that can offer health information and maybe even manage personal records.

Microsoft launched HealthVault on Thursday, and frankly, I'm underwhelmed. It appears mostly about gathering information, uploading data from health devices like glucose monitors, and networking. The centerpiece is a website with a search bar, where consumers can upload and store their health information. Partners, which seem to be dominated by health associations and websites dedicated to health information, could offer solutions to health issues. Doctors might use the site to share data and chat with patients.

But Microsoft specifically says HealthVault is not a personal health record. It appears more along the lines of RevolutionHealth, launched by AOL founder Steve Case, which is more about information, info-sharing, and networking.

Those sites look useful. But what I really want is a way to electronically manage my health data, primarily the dollars part of the data, much as I can manage my financial life through software like Microsoft Money and Intuit's Quicken. So I guess my hopes now rest with Intuit, which has signed up Cigna and UnitedHealth, two large insurers. They and others would apparently make medical information downloadable into consumer-friendly software.

It would be a big step up from Quicken Medical Expense Manager, which is decent software but requires me to punch in the data. It wasn't until I could download most of my family's financial data that I finally became disciplined about keeping good electronic records. It's no different for healthcare.

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