HealthVault is a sick joke

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is doing great work overseas to improve health. Hey, how about some attention here in the US of A?
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is doing great work overseas to improve health. Hey, how about some attention here in the US of A?

Homepage option: download device drivers! HealthVault is Microsoft's online health management and device driver download web site. The pitch:

Online Health Management Be well. Protected.

With HealthVault, all of your health information is in one place that you control. Created in cooperation with leading privacy advocates, respected security experts, and dozens of the world's leading healthcare organizations, HealthVault was built on the principle that you should control your own health records.

Want to control your health records? Don't put them online.

Out of the driver's seat and into the trunk, Grandma Among other problems, as fellow ZDnet blogger Dana Blankenhorn notes HealthVault isn't covered by HIPAA - whose protection is worthless anyway - and, if you give someone else custodial access to your account, they can easily deny YOU access. Feel the control!

Electronic medical records are a great idea - IF An ounce of prevention not only avoids a pound of cure, it is a heck of a lot cheaper too. The simple fact is that public health measures - clean food and water, sewers, vaccination, seat belts and thousands of other health and safety regulations - have done far more to increase life spans than any shiny piece of equipment or surgical miracle.

But the margins are a lot better on the cure side of the equation. And where there are margins, there are campaign contributions. So the US started cutting back on public health in the 80's and now the world is dealing with truly scary health threats like XDR tuberculosis - which has no cure and is easily passed through the air. Think AIDS without the fun.

Our system is backwards Instead of a system focused on keeping people healthy, America has a system where 30% of our "health care" dollars go to overhead - insurance clerks and medical billing specialists - instead of health care. That's an unseen "tax" of $1500 per person per year. Another huge chunk goes to buy "heroic" intervention in the last few months of life. Everybody wants to get to heaven, but nobody wants to die.

Insurance company profits depend on denying health care - not providing it. HealthVault is more likely to be used to DENY health care than to improve it.

Net-net: US spends more on health care than any other country AND our results are worse. Poorer health, shorter life spans. Trillions for overhead and cure and only a few billion for prevention.

The Storage Bits take Microsoft has the germ of a good idea in HealthVault. EMRs have reduced costs and improved care in VA hospitals which - virtually unreported by the media - are now providing the best medical care in the US (Walter Reed is a DOD hospital).

But as long as we have a cure-focused system that rewards payment-avoidance by insurers, the only benefit to HealthVault will be to insurance companies who'll sue it for access to records to prove pre-existing conditions. Any benefit YOU get will be purely accidental.

Comments welcome, of course. Ever wonder why the rest of the world isn't clamoring for the US health care "system"? Him-m-m.

Editorial standards