Connectivity & De-integration

“Back in 2000, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive, described a grand vision for the future of health care. One day, he said, everyone would have a secure and private website on the internet on which their doctors could post their 'scans, lab results, test results, visit minutes' and the like, and to which the owner could grant certain people access, to view some or all of that information.

“His ideas met with guffaws from the old lags of the industry, who have seen many fancy schemes for electronic medical records fall flat. America's health sector is simply too balkanised and too paper-based to stitch together easily in digital form. Google, Intel, Revolution (a firm started by Steve Case, a founder of AOL) and other Silicon Valley firms have all tried to do this, with little success. Even Mr Ballmer conceded back then that he was searching for the "holy grail" of healthcare.

“And yet, after years of frustration and furious development work, Microsoft now believes it has realised Mr Ballmer's dream. On October 4th… the software giant was poised to unveil its new health-information product at a big event in Washington, DC. It is called the Health Vault, in keeping with Microsoft's promise to make storing data on the internet just as secure as keeping it in a bank.

“Health Vault will store all its customers' health data, ranging from test results to doctors' reports to daily measurements of weight or blood pressure, online. Individuals then have access to those records any time, anywhere, via the internet--a great boon for those who travel a lot. Medical offices and hospitals who sign up for the service could easily send test results in digital form to the vault, and patients could authorise them in turn to have access to various, carefully circumscribed bits of their personal data.

“Microsoft was also set to announce this week that several dozen manufacturers, hospitals and charities have signed up for Health Vault. Big names including the American heart, diabetes and lung associations, the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and Omron and Texas Instruments, in addition to various firms devoted to the craze for ‘wellness,’ are all now on board, and are expected to announce products and services shortly.”

(“Business: The vault is open; Health care.” The Economist: October 6, 2007. Vol. 385, Iss. 8549; pg. 89)

PARADOXICALLY, as linkages proliferate, independence and atomization are unleashed through a web of networked interdependence. Information is the latch; insight is the lock, and wisdom is the treasure. People are the key.

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