University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust has become the first acute trust to launch a personal health record built on Microsoft’s HealthVault platform.

The trust booked a local cinema to launch My Health Record, which it has developed with Microsoft and US developers Get Real Consulting.

Dr Nick Marsden, one of the trust’s non-executive directors, presented it as a first step towards giving patients the kind of online and smartphone interaction with the NHS that they already have with retailers.

“I worked for IBM and when I joined the [trust] board five years ago, it was a bit of a culture shock to see how the NHS used IT,” he said.

“But since then there has been a lot of investment in IT systems in the hospital. Now, we are taking the next step in that journey, which is about how… we can interact with patients and other parts of the NHS and make that a much more pleasant experience.”

Microsoft launched HealthVault in the US in 2007 and brought it to the UK in 2010. The platform, which enables people to record their own health data and share it with others, was initially pitched at consumers.

Its first UK partner was gym and private healthcare operator Nuffield Health. However, Microsoft has recently focused on persuading NHS trusts to use HealthVault as a platform on which they can build patient-held records, decision support tools and other services.

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust launched a PHR with mood diaries and patient reported outcome measures earlier this year.

And the Department of Health and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health are working on a HealthVault-based version of the Personal Child Health Record or “red book” held by parents, which should launch in November.

University Hospital Southampton has ambitious plans for My Health Record. Trust IT director Adrian Byrne told the launch he hoped it would enable patients to update their own demographic information and, eventually, book and manage their own appointments.

He said My Health Record could also make it easier to obtain informed consent for procedures and support recruitment into research trials, be used for simple follow-ups to reduce demand for outpatient appointments, and support telehealth initiatives.

“The scope is very wide,” he said, adding that new ways of working supported by the record could deliver significant cost savings.

However, the trust has only just started talking to GPs and commissioners about “how to pay for all this” and how to recognise these. Meanwhile, a number of speakers at the event argued My Health Record could have wider application.

They compared HealthVault to PayPal, the personal payments service that has been built into a number of online commerce platforms and retailer websites, and argued that the NHS should adopt similar thinking.

For example, Byrne argued that organisations could build their own apps around the service, instead of creating their own closed portals, which would require patients using different services to hold a number of NHS access accounts.

“I like the analogy with PayPal, which sits in the middle of everything,” he said. “If we have a situation in which every NHS organisation sets up a website, then there will be brick walls between data, and many log-ons and many IDs.

“Instead, we could move to a situation where patient information is held in a cloud environment, and we all build apps that fit around that.”