Microsoft HealthVault goes mobile finally

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 6, 2011        

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Microsoft HealthVaultSean Nolan, the chief architect of the Microsoft Health Solutions Group announced last week that Microsoft’s PHR platform HealthVault has broken free from the desktop and gone mobile.

HealthVault users who visit the HealthVault website from their mobile devices will now find a mobile optimized layout. Microsoft has also built client libraries for developers so they can create applications that tie into HealthVault. The software developer kit (SDK) and sample apps are already published for Windows Phone 7 OS (understandable and not surprising), while SDKs for Apple iOS and Google Android are coming “within weeks,” according to Nolan. No mention of BlackBerry.

“This one changes the face of the platform pretty radically,” Nolan writes. “It is going to be really fun to see what new applications start popping up over the next few months.” Nolan writes that it has become “completely obvious” that mobile devices are becoming the primary channel through which people “communicate and compute” throughout the day. Mobile makes “complete sense” for health, Nolan writes because all meaningful health-related activities occur while we are away from our laptops: “office visits, emergencies, workouts, daily glucose testing, sleeping, you name it.”

In not so many words Nolan acknowledges that HealthVault should have gone mobile earlier: “I’m so excited that HealthVault is finally a first-class mobile citizen.”

One developer group, Akvelon, has already created an app using the WP7 SDK. The app called Health Guard is already available for WP7 users in the WP7 marketplace. Nolan revealed that he is also creating an app: “I can’t wait to see more and more awesome, task-focused mobile applications start to come online. I’m working on one of my own, but it’s a secret! ;)”

Mobile apps built on HealthVault are a long time coming. In February 2009 Dr James Mault, then-director of new products and business development for Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group, announced: “You are going to see a number of mobile applications going live on this platform in the coming weeks and months,” Mault announced. Following the session I asked Mault whether he and the HealthVault team had approached Microsoft’s Windows Mobile team to get the mobile developers in-house thinking about leveraging this platform, too. Mault’s response then: You bet. Of course, that never came to fruition, Mault has since left and it’s been more than two years until we received the “HealthVault goes mobile” announcement last week.

In a lengthy interview with MobiHealthNews back in August 2009, Microsoft HealthVault’s Senior Global Strategist George Scriban to discuss the PHR platform’s mobile strategy. Here’s a relevant excerpt:

“The funny thing about mobile platforms is that the architecture can be such that really the app on the device, on the smartphone, is a conduit to a separate Web app or service, so the developer’s app is usually talking to their own service,” Scriban said. “As long as they do that the service as a Web application can easily communicate to HealthVault via XML over HTTP, which is the way we communicate with any other HealthVault-enabled service. Client-side, whether it is on a PC or on a mobile device, direct connectivity to the platform is a little trickier in that the security model has to be tightened up a little bit. We are used to communicating via XML over HTTP and so there are very few client-side sets of bits like HealthVault Connection Center that actually talk directly to the platform.”

“We are still working on how we incorporate native mobile applications, if you will, to speak directly from an individual phone straight to the cloud as opposed to through a service and then to the cloud,” Scriban said. “At the same time, it really depends on the business model of the application provider. If a company’s business involves an ongoing service that is constantly connected to a client that is on the phone, say, one that synchronizes a Web version of their service with the phone version of their service, we don’t want to have to step in the middle and say that the phone has to talk directly to HealthVault. I think we will be open and very permissive whether it is direct client-side development or client-through-Web-app.”

For more check out these articles from our archive:

Microsoft in 2009: mHealth’s immediate challenges and lessons learned
Microsoft in 2009: HIPAA is key concern for mHealth developers