Fred Trotter's HealthVault expose

Trotter alleges that Microsoft fails the "seven generations test," that it has a long history of abusing standards (and is seeking to set them in the area of personal health records) that it has made no serious commitments to medical privacy, and that the endorsements for it are worthless.

Fred TrotterFred Trotter, a blogger at the intersection of medicine and open source, is in the midst of producing a series of articles about Microsoft HealthVault.

They don't paint a pretty picture.

Trotter alleges that Microsoft fails the "seven generations test," that it has a long history of abusing standards (and is seeking to set them in the area of personal health records) that it has made no serious commitments to medical privacy, and that the endorsements for it are worthless.

For good measure he then fisks Dr. Deborah Peel, who has endorsed HealthVault through PatientPrivacyRights.org, noting she lacks any formal training in computer science.

Trotter also contacted the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, neither of whom gave HealthVault a ringing endorsement on privacy issues.

His conclusion is unequivocal:

If HealthVault were to be successful it would be good for Microsoft’s bottom line, but terrible for our cultures. Indeed Dr. Peel is right about one thing, Microsoft would be “leading” us. Those wearing shackles are often lead by others.

Trotter's criticisms may seem trivial. So might mine. But they illustrate an important point about medical technology, namely that the perfect here is indeed the enemy of the merely good, since the results can be a matter of life and death.

It's the proprietary methodology which I think is really at fault here. In a world where people lack trust in most institutions, including the government (and most definitely including the media) the demand by any private party for trust is going to be treated skeptically by some, and cynically by others.

Whether Trotter's criticisms are skepticism or cynicism is something I can't judge. Perhaps you can. Care to give it a try?

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