Google Kicks Off Public Access to Online Health Record Service
On Monday, Google opened public access to Google Health, an online personal health record service, after about 18 months of development, the New York Times reports (Lohr, New York Times, 5/20).
The move comes after Google in February announced a pilot program to test the system that involved about 10,000 patients at the Cleveland Clinic (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/20).
Google Health allows users to store online their medical records and laboratory test results, as well as information about allergies, vaccinations and prescriptions. Users will have the ability to enter some information, as well as have data pulled from clinical records.
In addition, users can decide whether to share information in their PHRs with health care providers. Google Health allows users to search for medical information and use other online health care tools.
Google Health currently does not include advertisements but might in the future (Vascellaro, Wall Street Journal, 5/20).
As part of Google Health, Google has partnered with hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and lab test companies, with plans for additional partnerships in the future (Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times, 5/20).
According to the Boston Globe, the health care industry considers electronic health records "crucial to reducing the cost of providing health care and eliminating medical errors," but implementation of such technology "has been painfully slow," in part because of a lack of "established standards that would allow data to be shared across different medical record systems" (Krasner, Boston Globe, 5/20).
According to the Wall Street Journal, "It remains to be seen how willing consumers will be to store sensitive personal medical information online" (Wall Street Journal, 5/20).
Patient advocates and privacy experts have "expressed concern that, despite password protection, sensitive health records stored online could be compromised," the Globe reports (Boston Globe, 5/20).
Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, said that the federal medical privacy rule issued after the enactment of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act does not cover medical records placed on a third-party online service (Metz, AP/Chicago Tribune, 5/19).
Roni Zeiger, product manager at Google, said that the company will share information in PHRs only at the request of users (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/20).
Marissa Mayer, vice president of search and user products at Google, said that Google Health will have the "highest level of security" (AP/Chicago Tribune, 5/19).