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Google, Microsoft, Dossia & WebMD: Panel Highlights

by John Moore | October 29, 2008

One of the treats of this week’s Connected for Health Symposium was the opportunity to moderate a panel entitled: Personal Health Information Platforms and Records: What’s the Nitty-Gritty Situation on the Ground?

Obviously, I could not provide notes on this session while concurrently moderating it, but did find the following article at Healthcare IT News that provides some flavor as to what was discussed.

I began the session with broad questions targeted at all panelists and concluded my questioning with pointed questions to each of the participants. Following are the questions and their answers:

Google Health:

Ques: You currently only support a modified version of the CCR standard and do not allow for unstructured data in Google Health. Will you support other standards and unstructured data?

Ans: Yes, we do intend to support other standards including CCD in the near future. We are also building out the capabilities to support unstructured data.

Assessment: Good to hear that Google intends to support other standards and quite pleased to hear that they will be offering users the capability to store unstructured data (important for journaling, loading up advanced directives, etc.)


Ques: How will you support portability of the record should an employee leave their employer?

Ans: We intend to support portability of the employee’s record. As of today, we have not worked out a pricing model should an employee wish to maintain their data on Dossia.

Assessment: This is the same answer they gave me last year – obviously a back burner issue that Dossia has not spent much time on.


Ques: You are currently working with Dossia and now being rolled-out to Wal-mart employees. Do you intend to become a part of either the Google Health or HealthVault platforms?

Ans: We will become a part of these other platforms when there is a business case for doing so. (In other words: Only when a client asks us to do so and basically pays for it.)

Assessment: Seems logical and why commit to something that to date is still unproven and none of your large enterprise clients have asked for.

Microsoft HealthVault:

Ques: Recently, both Google Health and Dossia became members of the Continua Alliance supporting Continua’s open standard for medical device connectivity. Since biometrics is an important part of HealthVault (and its proprietary Connection Center), why are you not a supporting member of Continua?

Ans: Microsoft wanted to move faster then Continua to deliver a solution to market. We continue to follow what Continua is doing and will reconsider joining Continua at a later date.

Assessment: Yes, Microsoft is correct in that Continua has been moving slowly and understand that they may not have wanted to be hindered, after all, Microsoft now has over 50 devices that can feed data through Connection Center into an individual’s HealthVault account while Continua has yet to bring a single certified product to market.

That being said, Continua standard compliant products will start rolling into the market, en mass, in 2009. Continua gave a very impressive demo (at least for the audience as I was bored having seen similar device connectivity over ten years ago in the manufacturing space, but that is another story), including numerous devices, as well as an upload of device data directly into a Google Health account. Also, Continua is not expensive to join – it is only $5K/yr to become a “contributor” member, chump change for Microsoft.

Just can’t figure out why Microsoft won’t pony up a measly $5K to at least show support for the concept of Continua, unless of course they have every intention to make the Connection Center a lock-in solution. Do not believe this is Microsoft’s intent, but their position on Continua naturally raises suspicion as to their intentions. Hopefully, they will reconsider this stance and join Continua in the near future.

On another note – Microsoft did announce, while up thereon the panel that they have an iPhone app in the works that will be released shortly.  Can’t wait to see what that may be – stay tuned as we plan to dig deeper.

After my questioning I opened up questioning to the audience. The highlight was when someone asked when will we see interoperability between the platforms. This generated some lively discussion between Google and Microsoft with Google’s Jerry Lin finally saying to Microsoft’s Grad Conn that Google was ready when they are. To which Grad responded positively and said let’s talk after the session.

Don’t know what came of those discussions and regret not holding their feet to the fire in front of the audience and asking them when, specifically, will we see such interoperability. Guess that will have to wait for the next such opportunity.

5 responses to “Google, Microsoft, Dossia & WebMD: Panel Highlights”

  1. […] Health Information Platforms and Records: What’s the Nitty-Gritty Situation on the Ground?” Article John Moore, Chilmark Research, 29 October […]

  2. Sean Nolan says:

    Hey John … posted some thoughts on why we haven’t coughed up that measly $5K yet: http://blogs.msdn.com/familyhealthguy/archive/2008/10/31/watch-out-for-the-black-helicopters.aspx

  3. John says:

    Sean, thanks for the inside story on what transpired within Microsoft that has led to a reluctance to join the Continua Alliance.

    Concerns regarding voting rights, IP and even getting a platform to market faster are valid. But I still have concerns regarding the relative proprietary nature of “WPD” and your statement:

    “And we also were reminded that WPD isn’t bound to HealthVault at all – anybody can work with our devices on Windows without any HealthVault software at all – even Google and Dossia.”

    does not bring any comfort to this Mac user.

    Don’t get me wrong, I admire the work that Microsoft has done with HealthVault, the Connection Center for biometric device measurement upload to HealthVault is brilliant and based on some of the issues you mentioned re: Continua membership, I may have made the same decision as Microsoft.

    That being said, still hope to see even more openness in the future, both in OS support and broader industry consortium support.

  4. Ryan Tarzy says:


    I was the “someone” who asked the provocative question to the panel about interoperability.

    I too enjoyed thoroughly the squirming and the interchange between Microsoft and Google.

    That said, I’m OK if they continue to let vendors like MediKeeper serve as the connector between HealthVault, Dossia, and Google Health.

    Keep up the good work….

    Best of health,


  5. […] for a number of years, refused to join the medical device consortium Continua.  Chilmark has even chided Microsoft for its policy towards Continua, even if Microsoft had a valid point that Continua simply would not […]

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