Although the general public is generally warming up to the idea of conducting financial transactions and banking online—the still-growing popularity of ecommerce and online banking are testament to that fact—the idea of putting medical records online has raised more than a few eyebrows…and turned more than a few stomachs. The possible privacy implications of leaked medical records can be catastrophic: folks might find their private medical conditions and histories exposed to all the world, or find they are denied jobs, insurance, and other benefits due to discrimination. Nonetheless, industry giants like Google and Microsoft have been working on ways for individuals to securely store and control their medical records online, and selectively share information with health care providers.
Now, the renowned Mayo Clinic is bringing online medica records out into the public eye, announcing the Mayo Clinic Health Manager. Based on Microsoft’s HealthVault system, the service lets anyone (not just Mayo patients) store medical histories, test results, immunization records, appointment records, data from heart rate monitors and other devices, and more—and, perhaps most importantly, users can selectively share elements of that information with approved health care providers. The Mayo Clinic Health Manager also offers health recommendations and guidance based on data entered by users; for instance, the system might suggest a wellness visit, mammogram, blood pressure check, or additional reading.
“Microsoft and Mayo Clinic came together because of our shared vision to help families take better care of their health,” said Microsoft’s general manager of consumer health solutions David Cerino, in a statement. “With Mayo Clinic Health Manager, we’ve combined the capabilities of Microsoft HealthVault with clinical leadership and health guidance from Mayo Clinic’s vast body of medical knowledge to develop an interactive and customized health solution.”
Currently the Health Manager offers advice and features to help manage immunization, adult wellness, pediatric wellness, pregnancy, and asthma; the service will offer support on helping users manage cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure in the coming months.
An open question is whether tools like the Mayo Clinic Health Manager will be useful to patients anytime soon. The broader medical community has been slow to embrace online medical records, with many physicians and clinics operating on paper-based systems. The system creates a lot of duplicate work and delays as physicians re-do tests and procedures to work around gaps in patient records. Although online records may eventually help fill those kinds of gaps, they need to be broadly embraced by the medical community before they’ll be anything more than a curiosity to consumers.