Putting Citizens in Charge of their Health

Today, we try to control just about every aspect of our lives. Technology, software, mobile devices and a culture of individual empowerment means we have greater choice over how, when and where we work and live. We can decide to bank at 3am in our pyjamas, choose between a myriad of coffee shops on the high street, compare prices online, and engage with retailers and service providers through a huge variety of channels and applications. When it comes to healthcare, however, we seem to behave like passive participants – the National Health Service provides a generally excellent service for our medical needs and we have relied on it for decades. But I wonder if it can exploit our developing instinct for control.

Technology, behavioural change and external economic pressures are starting to create a shift in the nature and role of healthcare delivery in the UK. To start, the notion of ‘healthcare’ isn’t as simple as treatments and remedies. There is a continuum of health from general fitness to medicine; from wellness to illness.

According to research, 13% of the UK population are actively interested and engaged in looking after their ‘wellness’ – i.e. they do things such as exercise regularly, look after their diet, monitor their weight, take their temperature and blood pressure. Many of these people record this data in a variety of places – from apps on their phones to scraps of paper.

Today, with the launch of Microsoft HealthVault in the UK, we are offering those people a central repository for that data, where information can be entered manually by an individual for themselves or their family – or automatically from a range of compatible devices including weight scales, blood pressure monitors and pedometers.

Not only does HealthVault put users in charge of their own health data, but it also offers huge opportunities for organisations in the healthcare ecosystem to build applications and services that help people engage in their health and wellness. Moreover, the security features built into HealthVault mean that users can take control over who can access and use their data.
At launch, I’m delighted to say we are partnering with MSN and Nuffield Health to provide applications that enable wellness management. With the My Health Info application hosted on MSN, users have a simple, yet powerful insight into their health data – helping them monitor their blood pressure, calculate their body mass index and measure the amount of steps they take as exercise.

My Health Info is the first in – what we expect will be – a long line of applications developed for the HealthVault platform. The widgets that Nuffield Health has built for the My Health Info application (and the tremendous potential for further applications and services to be developed on the platform) are what really excite me about HealthVault. Now, we don’t know what specific applications or widgets will be developed in the future – that’s the beauty of a model based on social innovation and an open platform – but just imagine the positive impact a citizen-centric ‘wellness’ infrastructure could have on our nation’s health.

Evidence shows that those people actively engaged in their wellness use only two-thirds of the NHS resources of those who don’t look after themselves. If Microsoft HealthVault and our partners can help raise that 13% of people engaged in their wellness to, say, 25%, we believe that could save the NHS up to £5bn a year.
That makes me feel better already.

Useful links

  • www.healthvault.co.uk
  • Towards a healthier Europe – A Microsoft special report on how innovations in eHealth can improve medical care, increase efficiency, and create new jobs.
  • Microsoft HealthVault virtual pressroom – Launched in 2007, HealthVault is a personal health technology platform designed to put people in control of their health information. A free HealthVault account can be used to privately and securely collect, store and share health information that otherwise would remain trapped in disconnected silos. At their discretion, individuals can use HealthVault to share health information with a wide range of Web applications, EMR systems, and health and fitness devices, and with physicians, family members or others they choose. Please check here the most recent announcements on HealthVault.
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