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Going Stealth, MSFT Brings HealthVault to UK

by John Moore | June 22, 2010

Today, Microsoft, via a blog post by its UK leader John Coulthard, announced the launch of HealthVault in the United Kingdom. Yesterday, Chilmark received a briefing from Microsoft’s Director of International Development, Mark Johnston who provided us the back-story on this launch and how this launch is different from Microsoft’s previous international forays in Canada and Germany.

HealthVault UK is initially a very limited subset of capabilities focusing more on the MSN Wellness Center (or is it Centre for UK).  Two reasons for this: First, as the National Health Service (NHS) is Microsoft’s largest enterprise customer worldwide (yes, larger than say the US federal government) and Microsoft certainly does not wish to directly compete against NHS’s own citizen-facing personal health platform, Healthspace. Secondly, Microsoft has been working closely with Nuffield Health, a private health & wellness organization in the UK who will be its first customer.  Nuffield, which has ~150 facilities across the UK, both fitness centers, clinics and private hospitals, advocates a whole health model and is looking to the HealthVault platform, its wellness features and ability to take in biometric data as core to its strategy of providing customers a value-added service.

Unlike Canada and Germany, where partners Telus and Siemens respectively will take HealthVault to market, in the UK Microsoft is going direct and will offer the HealthVault platform to prospects (healthcare facilities, fitness centers, long term care, etc.) on a common subscriber access license (SAL) model.  With an SAL, Microsoft provides the base HealthVault “utility service,” and based on the client’s needs will build the ecosystem of apps on top of HealthVault, from third party ISVs as well as ones from Microsoft (e.g. MSN wellness widgets). Subscription costs scale, decreasing with a corresponding increase in number of subscribers.  A client, such as Nuffield, then offers HealthVault to their customers.  WebMD use a similar model for selling their platform to payers such as WellPoint or employers such as EMC or IBM here in the US.

As with instances of HealthVault in Canada and Germany, the UK HealthVault service will be fully hosted within the country and be in compliance with all local laws for privacy and security.  Microsoft has teamed up with the UK Cloud IT services provider, Attenda to provide hosting services.

Since Microsoft is already going direct in its sales strategy for Amalga and Sentillion in the UK, longer term, one can envision them also deploying a strategy similar to that at New York Presbyterian combining Amalga, HealthVault and the bridging solution SharePoint, which they have now offer as HealthVault Community Connect.

Clearly, there are those in industry that see the need for deeper consumer/citizen engagement in managing their health and are willing to take a a risk. Microsoft, Telus and Siemens are all huge companies with massive resources at their disposal to use patient money to build out these personal health platforms (PHP). But what we have not seen is a corresponding response from the market (consumers) that they are ready and willing nor, as in the case of the Telus release and this one in the UK, have we seen a ground swell of third party ISVs clamoring to get on-board and develop novel applications to serve the citizens of these countries.

To some extent it is a “chicken n’egg” scenario wherein ISVs may be reluctant to build to the HealthVault platform until they see some tangible traffic, which at least here in the US has seen a rise upward, but still sits at a paltry 7%. Not exactly a vibrant market. Chilmark dinged the Telus health space roll-out for its lack of an ecosystem.  Likewise, we have to ding Microsoft for its own efforts in the UK where honestly, this launch is extremely modest in scope, having no third party apps, just those simple widgets that were developed for the MSN Health & Wellness site.  Not exactly pushing the envelop.

But to their credit, Microsoft is putting their money where their mouth is investing for the long-term. If that investment pays off (i.e., consumers get on-board), Microsoft will have a substantial lead in the global market that will be near impossible for others to replicate.

2 responses to “Going Stealth, MSFT Brings HealthVault to UK”

  1. Jonathan H says:

    Ugh, I hardly ever comment on language, but this is a pet peeve: “unique” means one of a kind. Being a bit unique is like being a bit pregnant. You are or you aren’t.

    The phrase “very unique” is used (real estate agents love it) but it’s not clear what people are trying to say with it, other than “very unusual.” In this post, “a bit different from” would get your point across the same, with the advantage of being both grammatically and semantically correct.

    • John says:

      Jonathan, thanks for bringing my poor grammer in this post to my attention. Yes, it was atrocious and yes, I have corrected it. Sorry to put you through the effort, that was a very rushed post and quality took a hit.

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