Microsoft Takes Cue from Obama in Health Vault Campaign

Microsoft is taking a cue from political campaigns in an under-the-radar push for its electronic health records service. In the hopes of convincing people to join its Health Vault “movement,” the company may be implying support for elements of the Obama administration’s healthcare reform plan.

“Join the movement!” declares Microsoft’s IAmEnabled.com, a Web site aimed at persuading people to sign up for its two-year-old electronic medical records offering. Like many political and advocacy campaign sites, I Am Enabled features persuasive text, testimonial videos, and links to related Facebook and Twitter pages. And, like Obama’s distinctive presidential campaign site and the subsequent Democratic National Committee-run Organizing for America site, the Microsoft Web site is awash in blue tones.

I Am Enabled was created “to build buzz around a viral ‘movement’ focused on how digital healthcare can enable citizens to take charge, participate in, and make smarter decisions about their health,” a Microsoft spokesperson told ClickZ News. The site drives people to Health Vault, Microsoft’s online service for managing and accessing personal health data, launched in October 2007.

A recent search for “universal healthcare” prompted a sponsored link to the I Am Enabled site, which not only mimics Obama’s and Organizing for America’s calls to “Join the Movement,” but asks supporters to get friends and family involved. “Share the benefits of online health accounts with those closest to you, and add even more to the growing ranks of those who are calling out for positive change,” notes the site. “Better still, get them to hook up with I Am Enabled directly. It’s going to take lots of us to change healthcare for the better.” The site also suggests people talk to their physicians about the service.

Microsoft is using search and blog advertising as well as social media promotion through Facebook, Twitter, and a YouTube channel. Later this year, the company expects to allow people to comment on videos and other testimonials on the site, in addition to enabling Facebook Connect. The campaign launched June 1.

Building buzz around brands is nothing new for corporate marketers like Microsoft; however, the I Am Enabled campaign seems to straddle the line between corporate branding and political persuasion. Healthcare is among the hottest political issues, particularly as the Obama administration pushes its reform plan, a main component of which is developing a system for electronic medical records. In his speech last month before the American Medical Association, President Obama told doctors, “we need to upgrade our medical records by switching from a paper to an electronic system of record keeping.”

Some sort of institutionalized electronic medical records scheme could certainly benefit Microsoft. Google also offers a digital medical records platform called Google Health.

As part of its buzz-building effort, Microsoft has referred to media coverage of electronic health records, and Obama’s support of them. Alluding to the President’s AMA speech, the I Am Enabled Twitter account featured posts like, “Obama’s plan for electronic health records will cost millions, but save billions,” and “Obama ends by saying that the most important thing the American people can do is to be informed about healthcare reform.”

Similar posts in support of Obama’s healthcare plan — at least as it refers to electronic medical records — can be seen on the I Am Enabled Facebook page. “How do you save $700 billion annually in unnecessary tests and mistakes? Electronic health records. Obama’s plan may be ambitious, but it offers real cost-savings,” states a post from Microsoft.

According to the company spokesperson, the campaign is targeted to mothers between the ages of 35 and 55, i.e. the family “health manager.” Added the spokesperson, “This group also tends to be highly social and responds well to grassroots campaigns.”

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