Monday, October 08, 2007

Every now and then it is good to be prodded into blogging. So last week's post by Eirik was indeed welcome! Thanks Eirik! And the encouragement seemed well timed; just as Microsoft had announced their HealthVault initiative. Evidently beating Google to this service (see Google Health)

Enabling consumer-citizens to manage their own healthcare records, the next wave of digital-device invasion of the home is quite clear - healthcare devices! So while MP3 players/iPods, DVDs, and gaming devices have taken their chunk of wallet, the next wave could see a whole range of heart-rate, insulin, blood-pressure monitors and everything the bio-medical electronic firms can conjure up. After all, health is serious business.

To me, this service as another implementation of the Societal Digital Infrastructure (see other blogposts with this tag) -- a service that opens for disruptive changes in the way people and authorities receive and disburse health-care. We in Norway -- and other comparable welfare states -- have health-care served by Government, financed by taxes. While this centralised model works well in a small population -- to get an idea of the depth of integration in Norway see the Electronic prescription intiative -- I am not so convinced it can scale up to work in a diverse and not-so-well-integrated environment like say US or India.

So, will HealthVault offer a means to implement a healthcare service in these environments similar to that of say Norway, with much simpler "integration"? Conversely, will HealthVault challenge the centralised models like that in Norway, by opening up for other options? Microsoft has launched this HealthVault together with some service providers and device manufacturers, in what can be termed as a ecosystem. And Google will soon follow.

I suspect there is sufficient consumer/citizen interest in this domain to make this happen and drive for standardisation of data exchange and device functionality. Then, I hope health-care providers can interoperate in much the same way as telecom providers or banks are forced to interconnect with their competitors to provide a service to their consumers. Ultimately, consumers must benefit from this.

It will be interesting to watch how health-care providers will respond to this service-commodization? And the insurance industry? We all know how reluctant mobile operators were, when number portability was mandated by law. And with bank-number portability in Norway on the drawing-board there is precedent for some interesting times.

As a (software) planning architect I am seeing more examples that convince me that the "S" in SOA should be "Society" :-)

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