For diabetes patients, a quick stick of the finger will soon reveal more than blood sugar levels. With glucometers that can wirelessly connect to Microsoft's HealthVault online health information center, patients can upload their stats and download relevant medical advice anytime, anywhere.

Texas Instruments has agreed to bundle software on some of its existing wireless products so companies can produce connected medical devices that will easily operate with HealthVault.

"We're making it possible for TI's wireless technology to support HealthVault by including software on some of our wireless modules," said Janell Mirochna, a spokesperson for TI.

Glucometers, blood pressure monitors, pedometers, and heart rate monitors are among some of the devices that will be able to transmit vital statistics to the online health information repository from any location using TI's wireless technologies.

"Combining TI's semiconductor technology and the Microsoft Health- Vault platform can enable medical devices that equip consumers with their information when and where they need it to make healthcare decisions," said Kent Novak, vice president of TI's medical business.

Coming soon
Mirochna said the company is not prepared to discuss specific product plans at this time, but it anticipates medical devices based on its wireless technology to be available in the second quarter of 2008.

So far, TI is the only semiconductor company that Microsoft has recruited to manufacture wireless chips for the HealthVault initiative. However, Microsoft has signed on a number of medical electronics manufacturers to make HealthVault-compatible devices that will initially link through USB connections (see the figure).

Home Diagnostics, which makes diabetes testing supplies, will enable its TRUEtrack and TRUEread users to download data from the meter to HealthVault. Microlife will produce a connected blood pressure monitor, and Polar Electro plans to make its heart rate monitors compatible. Omron will likely use TI's wireless technology to link its pedometer models with HealthVault, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

HealthVault is the first large-scale attempt at enabling consumers to manage their healthcare portfolios online. Microsoft intends for both patients and doctors to be able to manage the accounts, with doctors and hospitals posting medical records while patients can upload real-time data like blood sugar level readings.

Since most medical information already exists in digital form, HealthVault will aggregate electronic records that are stored on different servers. This way, doctors and patients have access to a complete health profile.

"People are concerned to find themselves at the center of the healthcare ecosystem today because they must navigate a complex web of disconnected interactions between providers, hospitals, insurance companies, and even government agencies," said Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of the Health Solutions Group at Microsoft.

"HealthVault makes it possible for people to collect their private health information on their terms," he continued, "and for companies across the health industry to deliver compatible tools and services built on the Health- Vault platform."