Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Microsoft in Your Medicine Cabinet

By Seth Jayson – Updated Apr 5, 2017 at 5:28PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Mr. Softy launches an effort to unify health information in one spot.

If Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) were making the announcement, we'd probably hear the hallelujah chorus. But Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) early effort to compile, protect, and unify health records in one place is likely to draw plenty of criticism.

I don't blame Mr. Softy for trying to get into this biz. After all, comprehensive health-care records are currently about as easy to access as Dick Cheney's bunker -- whether you're a patient, doctor, or an insurance company. That's because they're spread out over a variety of locations in a variety of forms -- from computerized records of the kind offered by the likes of Quality Systems (NASDAQ:QSII), McKesson (NYSE:MCK), Eclypsis (NASDAQ:ECLP), or Cerner (NASDAQ:CERN), back through illegible scrawls on slips of paper and maybe even in cuneiform.

If you think that doesn't matter, imagine getting hit by a car, tossed into a ditch, and picked up by an ambulance in some far-away place. Would you rather the folks taking care of you take a guess as to what your medical history is before plugging you full of drugs and devices, or would you rather they know, because they were able to access your data in a centralized location? Sign me up for the latter, please.

But is Microsoft's HealthVault the answer? Not yet. Currently, it's a consumer-oriented, encrypted database that lets users store health information and share it with those they wish. Microsoft hopes the site will become a platform for developers to create Web-enabled applications such as prescription reminders. Early partnerships with medical and sport monitoring device makers, such as blood sugar monitors from Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) or heart-rate monitors from Polar, allow for the collection and storage of precise data and provide a hint of what could come further down the pike.

It looks like a decent start. Someone's got to lead the charge, and Microsoft's deep pockets and extended reach can give it enough heft to get the process moving. But that's likely to be the problem as well. We've already seen what government regulators, from the European Union, to the U.S. Feds, to individual states, think of Microsoft's gaining market share in any space. Consumers may balk, too. There's little evidence that the majority of them think there's anything to be gained by collecting their health profile in one spot. Expect a pushback here as well.

More Foolishness on computerized health care:

Microsoft is an Inside Value recommendation. Johnson & Johnson is an Income Investor pick. Quality Systems gets the nod from the Stock Advisor team. Not sure which newsletter to pick? Click here to take a free 30-day test-drive of any of our newsletters.

At the time of publication, Seth Jayson, a top-10 Motley Fool CAPS player, had shares of Microsoft, but no positions in any other company mentioned here. See his latest CAPS blog commentary here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.