Kaiser Permanente and Microsoft Corp. recently announced a partnership that the two giant companies hope will push forward the effort to digitize medical records and safely transfer sensitive health data. Kaiser’s 156,000 employees will be eligible for a pilot program connecting the Oakland health maintenance organization’s health records with Microsoft’s HealthVault, a free, Web-based medical database the technology giant launched in October. The slow shift of the American health industry from paper medical files to digitized records has been fraught with complications, a major one being that hospitals, medical groups and insurance companies typically have closed computer systems that do not allow for the exchange of information. Kaiser members already have the ability to schedule appointments, e-mail their doctor, refill prescriptions and access test results online through the HMO’s health record, called My Health Manager, which is used by more than 2 million people, or nearly a quarter of Kaiser’s 8.7 million members. The pilot program will allow users to combine their Kaiser information with data stored on the HealthVault platform, such as results from glucose-monitoring devices, blood-pressure monitors and other information such as diet and exercise not currently stored in Kaiser’s personal online records. “One of the most important things to test in the short term is the capability of the data exchange. Does data go from one place to another securely and reliably?” said Anna-Lisa Silvestre, vice president of online services at Kaiser. Kaiser will consider offering HealthVault to its members by the end of the year if the employee pilot, slated to end in the fall, proves successful, Silvestre said. Microsoft officials said they were excited to partner with Kaiser. “As the universe of online health applications continues to grow, people will learn how technology can empower them and their trusted providers to make the most informed decisions about their health and case,” said Peter Neupert, vice president of Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group. Microsoft’s HealthVault is in direct competition with Google Inc.’s free personal health record, Google Health, which became available to the public in May. The Mountain View Internet company has announced collaborative arrangements with the Cleveland Clinic and other providers. Partners previously announced by Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Wash., include the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.