What does HealthVault let you do?
Microsoft: ”Microsoft HealthVault lets consumers collect, store, and share health information online.”Brief Analysis
HealthVault is different from other online records in that information may be uploaded in the form of documents instead ofhealthvault.jpg everything having to be inputted which is quite time consuming. In addition, users are allowed to pick “Programs” from legit and authorized sites such as the American Heart Association to assist them in maintaining their health. The programs available ranges from diabetes management to cholesterol tracking – a feature lacking from other competitors. It was smart for Microsoft to team up with these leading organizations. It lets patients as well as healthcare professionals know that HealthVault provides accurate information since it is coming from the association itself…not to mention the branding among health professionals accompanied by partnering with such organizations.

Was Microsoft’s launch of HealthVault during GoogleHealth’s fiasco a coincidence or was it strategy? GoogleHealth has been receiving negative remarks from the healthcare community due to the lack of diversity (i.e. they’re all older doctors) sitting on their healthcare team. Popular healthcare bloggers and healthcare forums are angered at Google’s lack of diversity, even prompting a written letter from the the Center of Nursing Advocacy to Google. Nurses, librarians, pharmacists as well as younger doctors have been holding negative feelings towards GoogleHealth for the lack of other healthcare professionals and there have been comments by medical residents that older doctors are not the ones to embrace new technology, the younger ones are. However, GoogleHealth’s Team has no one who is under 30 years. It is one thing to upset the younger doctors who are more likely to use your service but it’s another to upset the healthcare professionals who have the most patient interaction in the healthcare community: nurses and pharmacists. Nurses are the ones who spend the most time with patients in hospitals and pharmacists fill over 500 prescriptions a day – think about all that marketing power being loss! In addition, rumors that Marissa Mayer spends no more than 90 minutes on GoogleHealth a day makes it seem as though the project is being half-heartedly pursued and perhaps Google really isn’t interested in making healthcare better.

Microsoft jumps in during this whole fiasco and by partnering with different associations, tells the healthcare community that “Hey, we might now know everything about health but we’re partnering with leading associations for their help. We have the right people behind us. ” HealthVault has been receiving warm remarks among physicians, with one physician commenting that he plans on enrolling his patients onto HealthVault. In addition, Microsoft’s strategy to allow third-party developers to create applications that could be integrated into it, brands itself among programmers and further markets itself among the technical crowd.

GoogleHealth is still in its infancy form but unless they address their problems now, HealthVault has them currently beat especially by launching and therefore, branding itself early among users. However, HealthVault is not user-friendly, leaving room for a competitor to penetrate this sector.

Would I tell my patients and healthcare colleagues to use HealthVault?

HealthVault is not user-friendly. However, because Microsoft has teamed up with very impressive partners, I would recommend my patients and healthcare colleagues to give it a try. If anything, HealthVault is an excellent place to find all the disease management tools from different health organizations available to a patient.

Some of the comments made by users of VentureBeat suggested that Microsoft shouldn’t have released such a “half-baked” idea. Healthcare itself is half-baked, its been years and the system is still fragmented. To be a “baked” idea, you have to launch and get feedback. I don’t see it as a half-baked idea. As long as the team at HealthVault actively engages the community on how it may improve itself as well as promptly respond to suggestions and complaints, they are well on its way.


HealthVault Case Study
Registration – 4 seconds too much
Registration in itself is cumbersome but for HealthVault, just getting to the registration page is a hassle. The user has to pass four screens before being able to get to the registration page. Four screens is aboutt 4 seconds of a user’s time. Some of you may be thinking “it’s just a few seconds…so what?” 4 seconds to get to the registration page is 4 seconds too much.

Let me illustrate this from a patient’s point of view. When a patient picks up a prescription from the pharmacy, he is asked by the pharmacist if he would like to receive patient counseling on his new medication. The majority of the time, the patient would answer “No.” If a patient isn’t willing to spend a few seconds to hear about how a drug may potentially harm him, why would he spend his time clicking through 4 screens just to get to the registration page?

Let’s think about this from another standpoint. 4 screens is 4 different reasons for a user to leave your site. Why would anyone put up a maze before anyone starts using a site?

Registration Form
Filling out registration for a user should be simple as possible. The site indicates that the information provided would be used to customize a user’s search. However, there are unnecessary fields on that form that doesn’t seem to affect a user’s health search. Are these fields necessary: industry, occupation, job title, marital status? I didn’t know being single or married affected my health.

By the time the user has reached the registration page and filled out all of those fields, he may have already lost interest in exploring the site capabilities. It might be more time-saving if the amount of screens to click to get to the registration page was lessened and some fields are taken out or made optional.

The Strong Password
After filling out the form and pressing another two screens, I am informed that my password, which was all in lower case, is too weak and that I must create a “strong password.” Let me illustrate the possible actions taken by a user:

Password attempt #1: use all lower case letters
Result: Password is “weak”. Site informs to create a “strong password”.

Password attempt #2: use all lower case letters with numbers
Result: Password is “medium” Site informs to create a “strong password”.

Password attempt #3: use a mixture of lower and upper case letters along with numbers
Result: Password is “strong”.

For extreme security reasons, HealthVault requires a “strong” password, which to Microsoft is a mixture of upper and lower case letters along with numbers. However, in exchange for extreme security, there is a drawback of losing potential members. Patients already have a hard time remembering when to take their medications let alone a password that contains upper and lower case letters along with numbers. Also, it is difficult to remember a password form not normally used. In a nursing home that I volunteered at, computer classes were given to the residents. These were non-computer savvy folks who were learning to use the computer for the first time. They had a hard time using the mouse and would have a harder time entering a password that would require pressing the Shift + Letter key. Something so trivial and simple to a techie may not be so for certain populations. For older patients, an all lower cased password may be easier for them to remember and type.

Furthermore, a non-techie would not know what a “strong password” is. Clicking on the link “Learn how to create a strong and memorable password,” does not tell me what a “strong password” is. I can just imagine the little old lady madly typing in different words, wondering why her password isn’t strong enough, eventually giving up out of frustration and not exploring what HealthVault has to offer. The screen needs to tell the user upfront what is required for a “strong password.” This would save the user trial and error time.



The HealthVault Itself

  • Lacks the ability to organize documents into categories
  • Inconvenience of jumping back and forth between the partner sites
  • Painfully having to fill out information about myself on the partner sites when I have already inputted it at HealthVault


  • Should have an excel feature to allow users to customize forms they would like to have available i.e. medication list, lab data, etc
  • Allow cropping: Assume a patient receives lab results via PDF and would like to upload it. However, there are some information the patient may want to leave out such as social security number or MRN. Microsoft should allow users to crop the documents they are uploading because some users are not comfortable revealing all that information
  • There isn’t a search tool bar when I am logged into the HealthVault Profile. Isn’t Microsoft HealthVault suppose to be a search engine too? There is no way to get to the search page from my HealthVault user profile


The Search

  • Use of wikipedia to quickly explain what a condition is – genius. People writing medical conditions in an understandable manner to non-healthcare users allows for quick and understandable information
  • Great display of amazon related products on the right hand side related to my search, enticing me to buy
  • Scrapbooking: excellent tagging abilities


  • Customize search according to zipcode. The engine should display relevant information according to my location. For instance, a list of doctors, clinics etc in the area pertaining to my disease search would be helpful
  • Incorporate scrapbooking into search algorithm. If someone scrapbooks it, it must be a good site. I’d like to know how may scrapbooks a link gets. It’ll improve relevant search information for me
  • Advertise HealthVault when users use MSN Search to look for health information. There should be a banner right on top of MSN Search advertising the HealthVault. Microsoft should make it a goal for themselves that every MSN user knows about HealthVault.


Remarks about HealthVault from around the world

  • “application did not have a place for me to enter my past medical history, medication lists etc. I think, for this application to work for my patients, this feature needs to be in place” – Mark Singh, MD
  • “not easy to configure for the average non techy over age 60 who are the patients that will need this type of monitoring.” – Gary Levin, MD

How I would change Health Vault



I would like it better if each search pulls up relevant information pertaining to me. Since I had entered my zipcode prior, it would be nice to have a list of doctors, hospitals, etc around my area. There’s a lot of other things that could be made useful to the patient. Patients complain all the time about how difficult it is to find information. By listening to them, a search engine can surely be made to be much more useful.

Another area I added was a “bookmark” count. This shows the number of people who “scrapbooked” a certain link. Using a style similar to delicious, it will allow me to quickly scan links to see if it is worth looking into. If a link has a lot of “scrapbooked” it must mean that the link is highly useful.

This is just a gist of all the things in my head. I am not a designer so don’t laugh at the below attempt to design. It’s to illustrate a touch of what I am thinking of.



You can read more about what others are saying about HealthVault: Venturebeat, NYT, Techcrunch