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KAI RYSSDAL: Bill Gates said today he wants your health records... Microsoft is rolling out a new service it's calling Health Vault -- a place online where you can store all your medical records, for free. Various organizations have said they're on board, including the American Heart Association and Johnson & Johnson.
But what's in it for Microsoft? We asked Marketplace's Lisa Napoli to find out.
LISA NAPOLI: Right now only about 20 percent of all medical records are stored digitally. But Peter Waegeman of the Medical Records Institute says companies like Microsoft are preparing now for the day when all those records are electronic.
PETER WAEGEMAN: It might take 10 years until we get there -- but people who are creating the infrastructure now are winning.
Waegeman says they're winning, because there's gold in our personal medical data. Microsoft can offer you a free place to store it -- and then make a fortune selling ads:
WAEGEMAN: Your medical records will be a secure Web site for every person in the country... And every doctor, every nurse, and every pharmacist can directly access it.
So, say you're diagnosed as diabetic. Your records are posted online, then you search online using Microsoft's Health Vault for more information. Companies that make products you might need can market to you directly.
Or, say you get a new prescription and search online for a place to fill it. Competing pharmacies in your neighborhood can get in touch and offer you a deal.
Dr. Steven Waldren is with the American Association of Family Physicians. He says in order for Microsoft to really cash in, it's got to convince millions of people to sign up.
STEVEN WALDREN: For these folks to be really successful, they need to get a lot of data on these patients so they can provide them a lot of products and services.
Skeptics say another key to success is going to be convincing patients that services like Health Vault and others proposed by Google are really iron-clad and secure -- because if people don't believe their privacy is protected, they'll never sign up.
In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.