HealthVault as a Platform for Research Development

Greetings from Alaska flight 3, Reagan National to Seattle-Tacoma, seat 16C.

I’m on my way home after a great day at the Institute of Medicine’s Digital Learning Collaborative workshop. The overall goal behind the conversation was to identify core gaps and opportunities around creating feedback loops in the health system — how can we accelerate capturing learning about what works, and then integrate it back into general practice.

The room was full of smart folks and there were a ton of great observations, but the two themes that really stuck with me were:

  • It’s clear that to make real improvements we have to reach beyond the office visit and find ways to bridge between the “real lives” of citizens/consumers and the traditional healthcare world.
  • There is a ton of research and pilots running on either side of this bridge, but not a lot that reaches across it — and there is a perception that doing that work is really difficult.

Interestingly, not very long ago I was at the USENIX workshop on Health Security and Privacy*** — a very different conference (much longer hair than at IOM) — but exactly the same themes emerged from those sessions.

Now, the point of these workshops is to exchange ideas, not pitch product. But I swear, it’s all I can do to not stand up on the table and scream,


Everything we’ve built into the HealthVault platform was created to help developers create connected health experiences — leaving researchers and innovators free to focus on the novel parts of their work instead of all the plumbing necessary to healthcare.

Just as a sampling:

Development on HealthVault is completely free. There is no charge to users, developers or enterprises to connect to HealthVault in the US. There is also no advertising on the system and we have strict terms of use that restrict Microsoft from looking at or selling data stored in the platform.

The platform is easy to develop on. We provide a fully-functional test environment that anybody can develop against (see http://msdn.com/healthvault), and API libraries for every modern programming environment, Windows-based or not. And because it’s all cloud-based, you can access the platform from anywhere.

Privacy, security and compliance are baked in. HealthVault has undergone a ton of internal and external penetration testing and auditing. We have a fully HIPAA-compliant model for interacting with clinical systems, can sign BAAs when appropriate, and are registered with the FDA as a Class 1 medical device. So taking applications into real use is WAY easier that starting from scratch.

Home monitoring devices are already hooked up. More than 70 off-the-shelf home care devices are already connected to HealthVault using HealthVault Connection Center on a PC – and many more that share data with HealthVault through web or wireless connections. So if you want to experiment with blood pressure, glucose, pulse oximetry, weight, ECG, peak flow or heart rates and fitness, you’re ready to go. And if you want to connect a new device directly to HealthVault, there’s an API for doing that too.

Linking to clinical systems is simple. Much of what we do is move data between clinical systems. There are a bunch of patterns for matching patient identities to office systems for this purpose. HealthVault can automatically read and return data in the CCR and CCD (that link is kind of old but a good intro; note we now do data reconciliation automatically) formats that are quickly becoming the easiest way to exchange data with EHRs. We also fully support the Direct secure messaging protocol as another option.

HealthVault supports novel and extensible data types. HealthVault can store full-fidelity DICOM medical images, and allows users to burn them with viewing capability to CDs and DVDs. We have data types for genetic SNP data. And of course all of the clinical and fitness types you could ever think of. Then again, if you do think of a new one — you can store that too, or extend an existing one.

Mobile development is a snap. Connecting mobile device platforms like iOS, Android and Windows Phone is completely supported with API libraries for each platform.

HealthVault is already connected to many data sources. HealthVault isn’t just about devices and manually-entered data. Users can connect their records to major pharmacies and labs, more and more hospitals and practices, use services that digitize paper records, etc.… so you can do research that uses data without having to figure out how to acquire it all from scratch.

All of this is super-important for research work. Grant money and coding talent is scarce, and I cringe whenever I see somebody presenting research that is 20% new stuff and 80% plumbing that’s been done over and over before. By standing on top of HealthVault, smart folks can do more good work and try things that otherwise might have seemed out of reach.

I love to talk to people about how we can help. If you have any questions about using HealthVault for research programs or experimentation, just drop me a note, anytime.


*** By the way, check out these three awesome papers from HealthSec … it was totally cool to serve on the paper review committee for such great work:

2 replies »

  1. The key quote for me is “All of this is super-important for research work. Grant money and coding talent is scarce, and I cringe whenever I see somebody presenting research that is 20% new stuff and 80% plumbing that’s been done over and over before.” I see the same thing and it’s a shame. Whether it’s HealthVault or Avado, one need not reinvent the wheel. Focus instead on new challenges.The good folks at Microsoft or companies such as ours have done a lot of the heavy lifting already.