About Wellness Corporate Solutions

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Google Health Debuts

Google Health, the personal health record service by the Web search and advertising giant, has finally debuted.

It invites people to create personal health records that are stored in Google's servers. These records will be controlled entirely by the user. Take a tour of Google Health here.

This is big news for people who have been frustrated by their inability to gather all their medical records in one place and share them with their doctors, specialists, family and care staff. By integrating services that help you find doctors, check your medications for interactions and gather health information, it promises greater efficiency and maybe even better care for individuals who choose to use the service.

Which gets to the problem. There are a few reasons to be wary.
  • Google isn't bound by HIPAA regulations that obligate doctors, hospitals, insurers and others to protect the privacy of your medical records under pain of prosecution. There's no sign that Google intends not to abide by the strictest privacy policies. But nothing is fully secure on the Internet. People will have to measure the value of using the service against the risks of unintentional disclosure or, worse, hacking.
  • Google invites you to create your record using the same password you use for Gmail, iGoogle and other Google services. Efficient, yes. But this means that anyone who get get access to your e-mail password (admit it: it's on a yellow sticky somewhere within arm's reach) will also have access to your health records. [You can beat this risk by creating a separate account for your Google Health record. That requires another sign-in, but it's probably worth the extra level of security you get.]
  • Down the road, Google hasn't ruled out selling ads for the service. How would you like to see an ad for Lipitor or Zoloft on your Google Health pages?
  • And finally, a big part of the value is integrating the service with partners like labs, drug stores and doctors' records. Once those partners have access to your information--after you've given permission--does that allow for continued distribution of your record across the information universe? Scary stuff.
Microsoft is offering a somewhat similar product called HealthVault.

It's not clear what all this means in a corporate health and wellness program. I'll try to keep you posted. Meantime, though, your clients are likely to have questions, so it's worth learning what you can.

Does this mean setting up your own record to give the service a spin?

That's your call.

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