Microsoft Ends mHealth App Experiment, Shuts Down HealthVault

Microsoft is shutting down its line of personal mHealth apps, abruptly ending a program that sought to engage users in creating a digital platform for health and wellness.

The company announced online that it would be closing out all iOS, Android and Windows phone HealthVault Insight apps before the end of January. It will keep the resource open for those who now use the apps.

Microsoft debuted the AI-enhanced mobile health platform to much fanfare in early 2017, in a bid to capitalize on an mHealth movement that was driving personalized app platform like Google Fit and Apple Health. Building on the Microsoft Health platform originally launched in 2007 using using device connectivity capabailities from Validic, the company promised a list of new features, including personal analytics, cross-platform support with Apple Health and Google Fit, access to medical records, an activity feed, engagement tools and integration with the Cortana digital assistant platform.

HealthVault Insights was part of the company’s Healthcare NExT initiative, launched in February 2017.

“The goal is noble: Empower people to lead healthier lives,” the company proclaimed. “And yet, few industries in the world face more complex problems than health care. Disparate and disconnected information systems, the uncertainties within regulatory environments around the world and the inevitable disruptions in core business models all pose perplexing and interlocking challenges.”

Healthcare NExT “will deeply integrate greenfield research and health technology product development, as well as establish a new model at Microsoft for strategic health industry partnerships,” the company said. “Through these collaborations between health care partners and Microsoft’s AI and Research organization, our goal is to enable a new wave of innovation and impact using Microsoft’s deep AI expertise and global-scale cloud.”

The initiative includes a partnership with UPMC, a Microsoft Genomics program, the development of AI-enhanced health chatbot technology with partners like MDLIVE and Premera Blue Cross, and a software tool for radiotherapy planning called InnerEye.

But HealthVault Insights never really got off the ground, suffering engagement issues similar to those that plagued the personal health record movement a few years back. Critics noted the app platform went through at least two overhauls and three name changes – from Health to Health Vault to HealthVault Insights – and didn’t offer much in terms of data support.

Company officials haven’t spoken publicly about the decision, but did say they learned a lot from the experience.

“We launched HealthVault Insights as a research project last year, with the goal of helping patients generate new insights about their health,” the company announced on its website. “Since then, we've learned a lot about how machine learning can be used to increase patient engagement and are now applying that knowledge to other projects.”

This is the second mHealth failure for Microsoft. The company discontinued its Microsoft Band fitness hardware in late 2016, following two years of troubled production.

Source: Eric Wicklund, mHealth Intelligence