Personal health records
Telus partners with Microsoft to
create web-based PHR
– Establishing itself as a Canadian leader in the area of personal
health records, Telus announced it will provide consumers with a secure
means of aggregating and accessing their health information through an
online service called Telus Health Space. The portal is to be rolled out
within the next 12 months.
To get the system up and running, Telus – the second largest telecom
company in Canada – has licenced Microsoft’s HealthVault technology,
which was launched in 2007 and has been in pilot mode in the United
States. Telus’s use of HealthVault will be the first implementation of
the system outside of the U.S.
The partners did not disclose the amount Telus will pay to license the
system for use in Canada. For its part, Telus will charge users of the
service, such as hospitals, health regions and insurers who will make it
available to patients or clients. Individuals will also be able to
create accounts on their own, for a fee.
In recent years, there has been surging interest in personal health
records (PHRs) as a means of solving serious problems in healthcare
For example, patient records are typically scattered among various
caregivers – from primary care physicians and pharmacies to hospital
X-ray departments and clinics. As such, physicians and other caregivers
often work with incomplete and inaccurate information.
That can lead to delays in diagnoses and treatments, as well as to
medical mistakes or poor outcomes. But by using new, computerized tools,
patients themselves will be able to marshall their data to ensure
physicians have the information needed to make quick, accurate diagnoses
and care plans.
“We need to bring consumers into this and give them control of their
health records,” said Francois Côté (pictured on left), president of
Telus Health. “It’s the only way to curtail the fast-rising cost of
As Côté noted, physicians often order duplicate tests for patients
because they don’t have access to recent lab or x-ray results. This has
contributed to exploding costs for diagnostic exams, as well as longer
wait lists for patients. It has also delayed the start of treatments as
doctors wait for the test results they need.
Lack of access to information can also result in medical errors – for
example, when patients are rushed to hospital and doctors make decisions
without knowing what medications the patient has been taking.
Using personal health records and solutions like Health Space, patients
and their caregivers will be able to obtain accurate information,
wherever they may be. “Patients and their families will be able to
access real data, instead of relying on their faulty memories,”
commented Phil Sorgen (pictured on right), president of Microsoft
Sorgen noted that since its launch, HealthVault has attracted over 100
partners to develop solutions for the system. They include over 50
makers of medical devices – such as glucose meters and blood pressure
monitors. Using these applications, consumers could track various vital
signs and the data could be automatically uploaded to their personal
There have been more than 13,000 downloads of the HealthVault
developer’s kit – an indication of interest in creating innovative
applications for personal health records. “Any number of these solutions
could be used on Telus Health Space in Canada,” said Sorgen.
Healthcare is a major focus for Telus, which announced last November
that it would invest $100 million to develop new healthcare IT solutions
over the next three years. As its first move in this direction, earlier
this year Telus acquired the MyChart personal health record systems from
Sunnybrook Health Sciences, in Toronto, at a cost of approximately $3
Côté said MyChart will be part of the Health Space solution, giving
consumers a structured record that can be populated with their own data.
Telus is also a major player in electronic health records for hospitals,
and the pharmacy information system business, through its 2008
acquisition of Emergis for $763 million. On the pharmacy side, Côté said
it’s conceivable that pharmacy chains could offer the Health Space
solution to customers so that drug information from different sources
could be consolidated.
In the future, it’s possible that agreements could be struck not only
with pharmacies, but with medical laboratories and X-ray clinics, so
that test results are automatically sent to a patient’s personal health
In the United States, a rivalry has emerged among companies such as
Microsoft and Google to provide consumers with secure, personal health
records. Google announced Google Health in 2008; so far, it is only
available in pilot projects in the United States.
Observers have noted that in order to gain acceptance in Canada,
providers of PHRs will have to ensure that the data resides in Canada –
so that it is not at the mercy of foreign governments. For its part,
Telus operates secure data centres in Canada that make use of backup
On a related front, the Canadian Medical Association launched
www.mydoctor.ca in 2008, which
enables Canadian physicians to offer a secure personal health record to
their patients. Vital signs can be loaded into the system, and doctors
can be alerted when patients need attention – for example, when blood
pressure readings are too low.
While the CMA has been making
www.mydoctor.ca available to its members, Telus is taking a broader
approach, targeting hospitals and health regions, labs, pharmacies and
insurance companies. Côté said announcements of partnerships will be
made in the near future.