Today the Mayo Clinic and Microsoft unveiled a free Web site aimed at solving the thorny problem of keeping up all your medical records. Powered by Microsoft's so-called Health Vault system, the Mayo Clinic Health Manager connects with participating pharmacies, insurance companies, and doctors, to create a running medical history. There's the rub though: So far, few of the organizations participating have electronic systems that Health Vault can tap, so users will most likely have to type in the relevant information themselves. Still, what you get in return might be worth it. Using your history and demographic information, the site recommends articles to read and procedures to consider, such as mammograms. You can even use it as a calender, to remind yourself to schedule check ups, or as a Rolodex, to record the various pharmacies holding your prescriptions.
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic think the system will be a boon to those with chronic ailments, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. It's time has certainly come: Funds to digitize our national health care records were included in President Obama's mammoth stimulus bill; the program's goal is standardized record keeping in five years. (Currently, only 8% of hospitals and 17% of doctors are on a standardized, electronic system.) Though the system's total cost in the next ten years might run to $100 billion, some have estimated that better record keeping will save $200-300 billion. That, in turn, should create a ripe market for services such as Microsoft's. Google, of course, has noticed. Last year it quietly unveiled its own medical records site.
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