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Elf
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Google launches health records service.

The Wall Street Journal (5/20, D2, Vascellaro) reports that Google, Inc. has launched Google Health, a "service which allows consumers to manage their medical records, and receive health advice online." This "service lets users create an electronic health profile by pulling together medical records imported from organizations such as pharmacies and lab testing companies. Users also can enter some information themselves." Most importantly, patients "can elect to share that information with" others.

Google Health "allows the user to send personal information, at the individual's discretion, into the clinic record, or to pull information from the clinic records into the Google personal file," the New York Times (5/20, C3, Lohr) adds. According to Dr. C. Martin Harris, of the Cleveland Clinic, "The ability of patients to send information, in particular, can be helpful to clinic doctors," because "if a person sees specialists outside the clinic, and receives a drug prescription from an outside doctor, it raises the risk of harmful drug interactions." Before this service became available, the primary-care physician would be unaware of the potential for drug interactions if the patient neglected to provide that information.

Bloomberg (5/20, King) notes that according to Roni Zeiger, a Google product manager, "Users will control who has access to their information, and can change those permissions at any time." The company also pointed out that "Google Health won't be funded by advertising. Instead, the site is designed to lure more users to all of Google's services, helping boost ad revenue."

According to Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, "services like Google Health are troublesome because they aren't covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA," the AP (5/20, Metz) adds. Dixon points out that "y transferring records to an external service, patients could unwittingly make it easier for the government, a legal adversary or a marketing concern, to obtain private information."

In response to these concerns, Google stated that it "will not sell user data, and will not share health information unless requested by the user," the San Francisco Chronicle (5/19, D1, Colliver) noted. The company also indicated that it "may share anonymous data with third parties, such as the percentage of Google Health users with diabetes who had a flu shot."

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe (5/20, Krasner) reports that "[m]any in the healthcare industry consider electronic medical records crucial to reducing the cost of providing healthcare, and eliminating medical errors." Yet, "the start-up of electronic systems has been painfully slow because few physicians and hospitals can afford to make the investment." Most importantly, "there are no established standards that would allow data to be shared across different medical record systems."



I can only imagine what kind of hackers could access the system and sell lists to insurance companies. And of course whatever kinds of viruses they could attach to a file claiming to be really important (and yes, pun kind of intended, but couldn't really put it in a clever way).

(as many of you know, this was in today's EM today email)
 

pseudoknot

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I think this is a very positive thing. Google does great work and from what I've seen there is a lot of room for improvement in current EMR systems. I don't see the hacking issue as a big one because they're pretty good at security and that cat is already out of the bag anyway. My one concern is that it would be a lot more efficient if everyone's medical records were on the same system, but I suppose this is a step in the right direction.
 

nymbarra

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I agree.

Sure, viruses can infiltrate desktop systems (via programs like Outlook, Internet Explorer, etc.) and lead to those e-epidemics, but internet-based email/commerce itself has proven to be pretty robust.

Hell, if govt systems can get hacked or data can get stolen from errantly placed govt laptops, I would be more inclined to trust the private sector.

And, national EMR systems like the VA's VISTA is already proven, and Epic is beginning to try interlinking different health systems that share the Epic system.

Besides, with its tech know-how and army of servers (and the blitzkrieg pace of its success) Google has a major interest in ensuring that this small pilot project works well:

Imagine the size of the contract that it could get from the govt once it becomes possible to easily save the majority of admin costs from healthcare...

In the ED, imagine being able find a pt's PMHx and med list quickly without having to fax all of those ROI forms. Saves lives, saves scut. :thumbup:
 

WallowaWanderer

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Great News. I also don't see security being a huge issue. One individuals password could get out, but as far as a hacker breaking into Google's system - I don't think that's going to happen.
 

El Cheba

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Great comment from a coworker about this:

Will the homeless shelters/missions have internet access for this?

EMR's are great though. Lots of useful info at your finger tips and some prior information would be better than nothing.
 

WakeMedHeel

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I personally think a nation wide record is the only way to go. How ridiculous is it that we have to fax for records in this day and age. Obviously there will be significant upfront costs, but it's safer for patients and ultimately will cut costs in the long run.

The problem is going to be...who pays for it? Who maintains it?
 

deuist

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The best bet would be to have Medicare creat such a national database and then integrate Vista (from the VA) and AHTALA (from the DoD). All claims---even private insurance---could be submitted to this national database.
 

EvoDevo

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The best bet would be to have Medicare creat such a national database and then integrate Vista (from the VA) and AHTALA (from the DoD). All claims---even private insurance---could be submitted to this national database.
Down with AHTALA! Horrible, horrible program.

CPRS from the VA rocks though.
 

nymbarra

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The best bet would be to have Medicare creat such a national database and then integrate Vista (from the VA) and AHTALA (from the DoD). All claims---even private insurance---could be submitted to this national database.
Interesting, there is a Vistapedia.

Here is the link to the beta (test) of Google Health.