Microsoft Corp launched on Thursday a website that lets people store medical information online, moving into a consumer health care business targeted by Google Inc and other technology players.
Microsoft's HealthVault stores medical information for free in an encrypted database and provides the user with the option of what information goes into the record and who sees that information. It is being launched only in the United States.
The website also incorporates HealthVault Search, a specialized medical search engine to tap into the growing base of consumers who are increasingly turning to the Web to find health information.
Technology and health companies for years have promised to change the industry by cutting waste and linking providers, insurance companies and patients in technologically safe ways. But without widely agreed standards or even a broad move toward electronic records, most offices are still filled with paper, frequently frustrating patients.
Microsoft declared its health care intentions last year when it bought Azyxxi, a software system developed by a hospital to collect and display real-time patient data from a variety of sources. This year, it bought a start-up company that develops Web search technology for medical information.
Web search leader Google also has designs to be a player in health information products, but specific plans have been slow to materialise.
Speculation from Google watchers has centered on ideas ranging from a health information search service to a way for allowing Google users to create a personal medical record.
Microsoft said it plans to reach out to doctors, hospitals and health services companies to build Web applications to work with HealthVault. It's a strategy similar to how it encouraged other technology companies to build applications on top of its Windows operating system.