Google Will Map Your Health Record

by francine Hardaway on February 21, 2008

The New York Times has an article this morning about Google’s pilot program with The Cleveland Clinic to store 1500 health records. Apparently, the Cleveland Clinic already has one of those EMRs that patients hate — the kind that they can’t take with them if they leave the Clinic to spend the winter in Florida or the summer in Europe. It is internal, like Mayo’s. Now it will be online, like any other Google service.

10,000 patients volunteered to an electronic transfer of their personal health records so they can be retrieved through Google’s new service, which won’t be open to the general public. It will be passworded, like your Google calendar or Gmail.

What’s so significant about such a small trial?
1)The Cleveland Clinic is one of the best medical facilities in the United States
2)They already have an EMR, so it’s not a case of wanting to make a transition to electronic records; rather,
3)They have come to the conclusion that the patient should control and have access to his or her records
4)So they are willing to give their system a patient-friendly front end.

Google has already said they wanted all information to be accessible and online, which is why they started Google News, Maps, Reader, Scholar, etc. Now they will also give us our health information — almost the last bastion of privacy, protected by HIPAA.

I see that they are attacking the privacy issues head on. But I also see that they got volunteers. There is quite a bit of customer demand for accessible records, and as long as the program is voluntary (opt-in, in geek terms), the privacy freaks should be assuaged. After all, HIPAA originally stood for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Nothing about privacy.

One other thing: Marissa Mayer is now running Google’s health team. She has been a public-facing executive for a long time. From what I know of Google, she’s senior, she’s serious, she understands the power of social media, and is not just a geek in a back room. I think Google will be a serious player.

But one thing she will have to deal with: the geeks’ fear that Google already knows too much about us, and that having our health information as well would mean endless targeted ads for Viagra or Cialis for some of us.

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