Microsoft launched last week HealthVault Search, a new part of Windows Live where you can search for rich, detailed information on medical issues and concerns. Searching about your health is a big part of internet searches (half the time my wife asks for the computer, that’s exactly why), but the commercial aspect of health care has left regular search results a mess of spam, and Microsoft’s new health search vertical aims to cut out the noise and eliminate multiple searches on the same condition.
Run a search, like this one, and the first thing that’ll surprise you is the wealth of information in the search results page (click the screenshot to view full-size):
- Differently colored refinements under four categories. I believe the boldness of the green color is illustrating how closely related that refinement is to your search. Below that, 3 columns with:
- Articles from multiple trusted sources, like Wikipedia, Elsevier, and Medline Plus, explaining the topic in your search.
- Web search results, but different results from the ones you get at live.com. Presumably, Microsoft has either created a different algorithm to limit results to trusted sources, or you’re only searching a whitelist of pre-selected trusted medical health sites. Either way, it works, though you lose out on forums that might have useful information and patient stories.
- Sponsored results, with books on Amazon about your search first, AdCenter advertisers below.
A lot of the entries in the page have a link to add it to your scrapbook. This way, if you (again, like my wife) are always searching for the same diseases, you can save the most interesting information you find in the scrapbook and look at it later. Not only can you look through your scrapbook, but every time you run a search, relevant scrapbook entries can appear in the top right-hand corner of the results so you won’t have to look for those again.
As I noted above, one thing Microsoft shouldn’t have overlooked is the importance of community discussions. Sure, forums are often filled with complete crap, but certain forums can have a wealth of information, like the stories of people who lived with a disease, and give users the opportunity to ask questions of others in similar situations. Blogs about diseases can prove useful as well. Microsoft should consider adding a carefully filtered community section at the bottom of the page.
In its initial release, HealthVault (based on MedStory, which Microsoft acquired early this year) is very impressive, and I’ve recommend checking it out if you have questions about symptoms, medication, or an illness you want to know more about.
There are two other portions to HealthVault: A free HealthVault Account area lets you upload medical records and share them with web sites and doctors. Also, there’s HealthVault Connection Center, which lets you connect various medical devices to your PC and use them to monitor yourself and upload that information to the HealthVault Account.
One last thing: HealthVault has stronger password requirements than Windows Live ID, which is infuriating! When signing up, if your password is six letters, all letters, or has no capital letters, you will almost certainly be asked to change it. How dare they! Passwords are very important, and I use Live ID in so many places. Microsoft, don’t allow any of your sites to mess with the Live ID passwords; it’s annoying and needs to be fixed right now.