Before we get started I need to tell you that I will need to fight a strong bias here to write about the issue of health records online. I have some background in the use, power and neglect of medical records from my days in the insurance business. In addition, I know the impact of a misdiagnosis and / or bad information that when it comes to many different areas of life, including how much you pay or whether you can even be covered for life and health insurance. Let’s just say when it comes to privacy I am a bit skeptical in general but more so regarding the Internet and health records.
OK, on to the matter of Google Health that was introduced by Google in 2007, opened in 2008 and is receiving some new attention. You can see CNET’s coverage which has been reworked due to some confusion regarding policies. Considering Google’s close ties to the current administration one has to guess that there is no coincidence that as the president ratchets up his talk on health care reform that Google begins to promote this product. Nice touch.
The idea behind Google Health is that you can have your medical records online with Google that you can update and share with people that you assign access to your data. The most obvious application is in an emergency situation that doctors have up to date information that will help them treat a patient having more information and thus avoiding any issues that may arise with pre-existing conditions and medications.
Sameer Samat, director of product management at Google, explained his personal impetus behind the new feature in a company blog post on Wednesday:
Just a few years ago, my father suffered a minor heart attack and was sent to the ER. I arrived on the scene in a panic, and was asked what medications he was taking. To my surprise, I had no clue. If my father had a Google Health account, and had shared his profile with me, I would have been up-to-date on his current medications.
The obvious question is about security. In a nutshell, you allow a person to have access to this data via an assigned e-mail address. That information cannot be forwarded to another party. These people can only see the information and not edit it as well. A record will be kept as to who saw the data also.
The big questions and concerns will be around security as they should be. I suspect that Google has taken every measure to lock this down. Something to consider though is that Google and this system is NOT regulated under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA. Also, there will be Google employees that will have access to this data.
So when it comes to health information when do you hit the ‘too much information’ threshold? When do you put your information in another area that could possibly be compromised? What would happen in an emergency if this information could not be found as was the case with Mr. Samat? This begs a lot questions and it will certainly be an individual choice to get involved. What’s your take?