Google Health

Ken AshfordHealth Care1 Comment

An interesting idea: have all your medical information on the Internet — accessible by hospitals and doctors.

Google Health allows you to store and manage all of your health information in one central place. And it’s completely free. All you need to get started is a Google username and password.

Google believes that you own your medical records and should have easy access to them. The way we see it, it’s your information; why shouldn’t you control it?

  • Keep your doctors up-to-date
  • Stop filling out the same paperwork every time you see a new doctor
  • Avoid getting the same lab tests done over and over again because your doctor cannot get copies of your latest results
  • Don’t lose your medical records because of a move, change in jobs or health insurance

With Google Health, you manage your health information — not your health insurance plan or your employer. You can access your information anywhere, at any time.

I foresee some privacy/security issues, but Google seems to be aware of that.

Anyway, feel free to explore Google Health, now in beta.

UPDATE:  Some are skeptical

Here’s the problem: My health records are in a manila envelope, in a wall-sized file cabinet, somewhere on K and 21st Street (and we’re not even getting into the thick document stored in some basement in California). Paper is not interoperable with Google. Now, I could begin inputting my health records by hand, and because I’m a nerd, I might do that. But most won’t. So until the provider community decides to step up and commit to one (or even a couple) standard electronic health record platforms, G-Health won’t be much more than a curiosity.

But down the road, when electronic health records are either required by the government or demanded by the market, G-Health will be a fascinating system. For one thing, it’s completely portable and user-controlled. Aetna’s CEO is bragging about his superior system, but given that that system is controlled by Aetna and I’m not, it’s of little use to me. G-Health, by contrast, can be used by anyone, and thus has much more potential to become the standard than do proprietary systems.

There are, of course, questions of privacy. And those questions need to be balanced by the utility of actually having and analyzing good data that could improve care quality. If Google gets all this information, then squirrels it away, it’s robbed of its potential to improve care. But if they have some system for coding it anonymously in ways that researchers can nevertheless use, they risk bad press (here, incidentally, is the privacy policy). Which is why G-Health is probably a stopgap solution that will help individuals better control their records. The actual health system won’t move into the electronic age till the government sets standards and creates funding to help it do so.