HealthVaultDoctor, Doctor I feel like a pair of curtains – Well pull yourself together then!!
Ah if only it were that easy – to close the ‘virtual curtains’ on an ever prevalent eye gazing into the front living room of our lives. Hold on to that thought…

This week, Microsoft has announced the launch of HealthVault, beating Google across the line to become the first free online central repository for your own personal health records. Keep track of your prescriptions and test results, get doctors and hospitals to upload your health files. No doubt you can (or soon will be able to) ‘plug yourself’ in to the USB slot on your laptop and get your blood pressure and glucose results read remotely…

 Microsoft Beats Google To Online Health Records With HealthVault

The line that particualrly caught my eye was “Access to the site will require a Windows Live ID and a password that you can share with healthcare providers.” Share, SHARE?! Suddenly I feel like a schoolboy being corrected by his mother in a school for not offering sweets to my friends. Let’s just unpack this whole unique identifier thing a little bit shall we, let me ‘share’ some thoughts…

Once you have signed up to this very handy service and have got all your records in one place, no more having to get your notes sent somewhere everytime you change address, come on, think of the ease of walking into any doctor’s surgery in the world and them having instant access to your medical history, your allergies, your innoculations – no more filling in forms trying to remember every operation in your life and if your grand-mother had a kidney infection in her teens…

You still here – or have you signed up already?

Well just before you do I am going to make a quantum leap here in terms of technological prediction. Ever noticed who supplies the card terminals you type your pin number into when paying for your Starbucks Coffee? It’s VeriFone. I am guessing these are same guys who operate under the brand VeriChip*. In case you are new to this particular brand name – and if you are then go buy yourselves a very large Starbucks and wake up and smell the coffee – VeriChip are the technology company who are continually raising a lot more then an eyebrow, due to the fact they market the world’s first human-implantable RFID microchip.

VeriMed Patient IdentificationAmong one of their suggested uses is VeriMed. A personal tag always ready to ‘speak on your behalf… and let the medical world know your pertinent medical information.’ Ideal if you collapse in the street and can let someone instantly know that you are a diabetic and also allergic to penecilin. That could be life and death stuff. That’s one great reason to allow you or children to become ‘tagged’, and certainly thats how the marketing spin is going to go.

That little chip could save your life when it links you to your medical records. That same litte chip will also be assisting you getting through London Underground. That same little chip will also let you pay for your beloved Starbucks coffee… That same little chip will help remember a lot more than the fact you are diabetic…

“What did you eat today, Mr Donaldson? Ah yes, I have seen you’ve have had a sausage and egg toasted sandwich for breakfast along with your cappuccino – thats no good for your cholestrol is it? And ooohhhh, ANNND a can of coke – you know that caffeine is no good for you, tut tut now…”

You just know that chip will link you to your medical records and onto your health insurance; that every time you go against Doc’s orders, another percentage increase will be added to your premium. That’s it Mr. Donaldson, back of the line please, you are your own worst enemy. The digital billboards in the coffeshop will display the cost of your insurance premium if you purchase that sandwich with a “buy now, pay later – via BUPA”. A constant little nurse, or annoying nanny with apparently nothing but your best interests at heart…

Incidentally, how is your heart rate right now – you still wired into the USB slot? 

Suddenly the old ‘curtain’ joke doesn’t seem quite so amusing, does it..?

This is the problem with technology – sounds great on the surface and marketed by focussing on the ease of use, but it is only when you pull back the veneer and dare to look underneath do you start to get the jitters. Just because we can, does not mean we should. That is the essence of ethics. And if we should, to what degree?

So Microsoft, please can you let us know exactly how ‘vault’ and ‘share’ go in the same sentence – and start ‘sharing’ some of your real plans, allowing yourself to be open to be questioned, as opposed to assuming the rest of us live in a naive blissful utopia linked up to you via a USB cable.

 *I can find no evidence that VeriFone and VeriChip are one and the same entity, but certainly VeriFone has been playing with RFID payment systems for a fair while now, introducing them in McDonalds in 2004, as shown in this article: Would you like RFID with that?