02 September 2008

Personal Heatlh Record: A PHR at Google

Boomers will live long enough to see the Internet transform most aspects of our lives. That includes our health care or, pertinent to this blog, our health care records. The 2008 launch of an online personal health record (PHR—that's a standard bit of nomenclature that's been around since the late 1970s) will spur that transformation. It's from Google, of course.

Google Health requires a log-in with a Google account (which is handy for all Google apps, anyway). The site carries the designation of BETA, indicating that some parts are still being developed. Google's history of taking web sites through a beta phase is strong—don't mistake the disclaimer for a warning of shaky software. Nothing shaky here in terms of the technology itself.

But on the subject of disclaimers, you will note that accessing Google Health requires acceptance of policies. We've all become accustomed to checkmarking "I Agree" clauses for web sites but the terms of service should remind users to enter data cautiously. The purpose of this site is data recording, with expectation that users will upload personal and health-related data. The site may suit your purpose along these lines, but we don't have any real sense of how successful this site will be in managing information. I see the data collection aspect as a harbinger for consumer relations with medical providers but, frankly, I'm still looking for a doctor's office that simply will let me make appointments online. Placing my medical records on the web is not yet my priority.

The efficiency of web-based personal records is unquestioned. Just as we have become comfortable with online banking, we'll probably soon become comfortable with online health tracking. If you've thought of the HIPAA consideration, good thinking! As the Google Health site says, HIPAA does not mandate how patients handle their own records. Google conscientiously puts the user in charge of every aspect of the data entered and that includes the user's power to limit access by others. So, if you elect to link your online profile with a pharmacy partner, you will decide if the pharmacy has "write-only" access (pharmacy can add information for you to read, but cannot see any information you have stored in your profile) or "read/write" access (pharmacy can both read your profile and also add to it).

Google Health is not the first online PHR but it certainly could be the biggest (soon). Its growth will depend on how many and what partners emerge from the health community. The number is small enough now that there's plenty of room on screen to display corporate logos. Maybe our indicator of progress past Gen 1 will be when the interface reduces partner listings to text only.

On a personal note: I liked seeing Walgreens and QuestDiagnostics on the Google Health partner list. Those are two outfits that I sometimes use. Yes, I'll track Google Health's progress in signing partners, especially hospitals and doctors and insurance providers. ~ Lida

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

No comments: