Kaiser Permanente, the biggest health maintenance organization in the United States, announced a pilot program on Monday to link patient records to Microsoft's consumer health platform.
The test will initially be limited to Kaiser employees who volunteer to have their records transferred, but access could be widened to the HMO's 8.7 million members later this year, said Anna-Lisa Silvestre, vice president of online services at Kaiser.
She said more than 2 million members have signed up to use Kaiser's own online health records service, My Health Manager, and the agreement with Microsoft will dramatically expand availability of online health information, services and tools.
"People today do a lot of things for their health outside of a formal healthcare system," Silvestre said, adding that the HMO is looking for ways to help members improve their health outcomes.
Kaiser is the first large health provider to link to the Microsoft health platform, called HealthVault, but Microsoft "expects to connect with lots and lots of source data providers," said Peter Neupert, vice president of Microsoft's Health Solutions Group.
He said the Microsoft platform currently offers about 30 tools for consumers, with more to be announced this week.
Rival Google last month unveiled Google Health, a U.S. health information service that combines the leading Web company's classic search services with a user's personal health records online.
Kaiser and Microsoft, as well as Google, said their sites adhere to federal standards for data exchange and include advanced safeguards to protect members' personal information.