Microsoft has just launched a new HealthVault app for its Windows 8 operating system, designed to run on tablets, W8 phones, and computers. The upgrade doesn't functionally allow users to do anything they couldn't do before, but it aims to make it easier for users to track and review their own health data by leveraging Windows 8's multitasking features.
HealthVault Distinguished Engineer Sean Nolan told MobiHealthNews that Windows 8 is ideally suited to interacting with HealthVault. It's also a mobile-focused operating system, and Nolan sees HealthVault as an increasingly mobile-focused platform.
"It became incredibly clear that mobile was a game changer for consumer health," Nolan said. "The fact is that the behavior [of mobile users] is really fundamentally different. It's particularly acute in health: [Managing health] doesn't happen at 8 p.m. up in your den after the kids go to bed. The daily health stuff -- 'Hey my coach needs me to fill out this med form', or I'm traveling, all these kinds of things help bring health into the world of everyday people."
HealthVault has been mobile for a while now, starting with a mobile app for Windows 7 phones and moving onto other devices including Android devices and iPhone. But Windows 8 promotes moving easily between mobile and desktop platforms with a single interface and a single sign-on.
The new app presents users with a new start screen, made of modular tiles like the Windows 8 start screen, which displays a user's health data as an at-a-glance dashboard. Nolan said the previous welcome screen was much more "file cabinet-y" with drill-down menus that couldn't immediately be seen.
"There’s a section for tracking key metrics like weight, blood pressure, diet, exercise and cholesterol, complete with mini graphs showing recent trends," Nolan wrote in a blog post. "Next to that is your health profile: medications, allergies, conditions, immunizations and procedures. Then administrative information like insurance and contacts, and finally a directory of all the apps and devices you can use."
One of Windows 8's "charms" -- generic buttons that can be conjured with a side swipe and used in any program -- is called "Share," and Nolan describes it as an advanced version of the "copy and paste" clipboard. He says it's a particularly useful feature with HealthVault.
"If I want to go and share a lot of information with my doctor, I just drag it to the sharing space. I go to the camera app, I take a picture and it can flow up to my HealthVault without ever leaving that experience. Say I have one of the dozens of useful consumer apps, moving that data up to HealthVault becomes a billion times easier. They just invoke that sharing charm."
Another Windows 8 feature that interacts well with HealthVault is called "Snap View". It allows users to snap a smaller version of an active window to the side of the screen while working on another project. So, for instance, if you're emailing your doctor and want to share data with them, the snap view creates another way to do that.
"In our app, we've recognized we're in that snap view and created a specialized view, so as soon as you snap it over you can very easily scan information from one application into another," said Nolan.
The HealthVault team also continues to integrate the platform with other health-related software. Nolan said a major area with the Windows 8 app is integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which is sometimes used by healthcare providers for population health management. He said HealthVault is also working on new Windows 8 integrations with Bing and Xbox Kinect.