US software giant Microsoft has joined the Continua Health Alliance, the open industry coalition of healthcare and technology companies developing standards for connected personal health systems.

Microsoft has until now remained separate from the Continua Health Alliance, developing its own network of partners around its HealthVault personal health platform.

HealthVault is a web-based platform that helps users collect, store and share health information with family members and participating health and wellness services.

It also offers a choice between third-party applications and devices to assist users in managing their fitness, diet and overall health.

“We are very pleased that Microsoft has joined Continua to assist us in further increasing an ecosystem of user-friendly, interoperable, personal connected healthcare products that will ultimately empower consumers and improve health outcomes,” said Chuck Parker, executive director, Continua Health Alliance.

“We look forward to having Microsoft participate in the Alliance to help foster the Continua vision of personal connected health.”

“Since developing HealthVault, Microsoft has grown a robust ecosystem of health and wellness applications, devices and services on the platform that help individuals engage with their personal health data in meaningful ways.

"Our growth has been driven by HealthVault’s commitment to interoperability and to industry standards wherever they exist,” said David Cerino, general manager, Microsoft Health Solutions Group.

“Our membership with Continua extends our commitment to providing organisations with options for building on – and connecting to – HealthVault, which we believe encourages continued innovation across the industry in support of consumer health and wellness.”

Continua has also published its 2010 Design Guidelines. The updated design guidelines are available to Continua members and outline industry standards and specifications selected by the Alliance for devices, services and communication to ensure interoperability.

The guidelines form a key part of Continua’s efforts to develop an ecosystem of interoperable personal connected healthcare products that empower individuals and organisations to better manage their health and wellness.

Continua’s 2010 Design Guidelines cover the addition of the Wide Area Network interface; support for two new Personal Area Network and Sensor-LAN device types; the addition of ZigBee support into the Sensor-Local Area Network interface; and updates and enhancements to the ISO/IEEE Base Framework Specification.