Google Announces Plans For Online Personal Health Records Service

Microsoft beat them to the punch, but Google has announced that they, too, are planning to roll out a service that lets consumers store their medical records online and transfer them between health care providers as needed. Marissa Mayer at Google said the idea was spawned after reports of lost or damaged records in the wake of Hurricane Katrina: “It doesn’t make sense to generate this volume of information on paper. It should be something that is digital. People should have control over their own records.” Mayer says they hope to include things like x-rays, and that it “will take a lot of breakthroughs in digitization.”

Talk about mixed feelings: having control over your medical records, and having them in the cloud so that you don’t have to worry about paper trails or losing data, would be a huge improvement in consumer control. On the other hand, if Google gets much more information about you on its servers, it will be able to create a clone who can seek you out and try to kill you.

We’re waiting for the option in 3-5 years where you can store your genome with Google and then see ads relevant to your genetic predispositions, ’cause you know it’s going to happen. (I wonder if Google will try to hire me now for that idea!)

“Google unveils plans for online personal health records” [ComputerWorld] (warning: obnoxious ad with audio embedded in page)
“Microsoft To Launch ‘Search-Engine Supported’ Site For Health Records”
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. dazette says:

    Sounds real secure and safe to me—–NOT!

  2. mikala says:

    oh, this makes me nervous. generally i’m not a huge privacy freak. i don’t even shred my old bills (NOOOO!!).

    i’ve been saying for years that what i want is an implant (in my arm, say) that has all my info on it. Identification, medical history, all of it. i’m (mostly) joking but in some ways i’d rather have that than have it stored on some server somewhere that will eventually get hacked.

  3. I, for one, welcome our Google overlords. :)

  4. ElizabethD says:

    I’m mostly for this. Having gone through the logistical nightmare of caring for my father as he became increasingly incapacitated from mini-strokes and dementia, I can appreciate what a blessing the online record system would have been. Every time I took Dad to a new provider — primary care, three neurologists, psychiatrist, gerontologist, assisted living, nursing home, three different hospitals — I’d have to fill out the same lengthy patient histories, med lists, etc etc. This was all in the space of about 18 months total. At a stressful time, it was sometimes TOO MUCH. “Why can’t these places all communicate with one another?” I wondered each time.

    If you’re young and basically healthy, this topic won’t have the same resonance it does for those of us who are middle-aged and older, and/or who have a chronic medical condition ourselves or among immediate family members. There has got to be some secure way to store medical histories and current medication records! Bring it on.

  5. I’m 29 and have had a slew of interesting health problems. Something like this would have made my life so much easier when I was going through the worst of it. Trying to get all my health info in one place is a logistical nightmare.

    As for privacy, I don’t worry about it all that much. I’m sure there would be a way to blur out/remove your SSN, address or phone number. So what is someone finds out about my colonoscopy results? That’s no big deal to me.

  6. supra606 says:

    @Electoral College Dropout: LOL! Another great use of a Simpsons quote. Seriously though, am I the only person that is appalled at the thought of my medical history being in the hands of a company that has repeatedly shown such blatant disregard for privacy?

  7. Mr. Gunn says:

    The problem that these services face is that no doctor is going to trust a patient-curated health record. Yeah, they’ll look at it if there’s nothing else, and that’s great for emergency room patients from a different state, but it’s not something that will replace the current system to any significant degree.

    I’m not just being a detractor, I love to have all my stuff online, but Yodlee doesn’t let me tell it how much money I have in my bank accounts, and no bank would trust the info if it did, so health records are the same way. People will leave in shot records and immunizations, but leave out or remove things that might be embarrassing or incriminating.

  8. forever_knight says:

    a big problem with these systems for consumers is that you cannot make your medical problems disappear. for example, say you have major surgery when you are 17. your dr. fixes you but then says to just not tell the insurance companies that you had the condition at all because “you will never get insurance again” unless it is $2k a month. with these new fancy systems, you can’t make your condition vanish (at least the paper trail) like you can with the existing system in order to get affordable health insurance.

    i’m staying away….err….my friend is staying away.

  9. The problem that these services face is that no doctor is going to trust a patient-curated health record.

    @Mr. Gunn: Then why the hell do they make us fill out all those forms? If I’m so unreliable or untrustworthy why don’t they just ask whoever they think they should be getting this information from?

  10. On a somewhat serious note, when MS announced they were going to do this I scoffed and said to myself “Self, I have zero trust in Microsoft.” Fortunately, I trust Google ten times as much. ;)

  11. Andy S. says:

    For anyone who is worried about how Google will use the data:

    Use and disclosure of personally-identifiable health information is governed (in the US, at least) by HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Even if Google wanted to use your health info for their own gain in any form other than as anonymous aggregate data, they legally could not.

    [aspe.hhs.gov]

  12. rrapynot says:

    They are going to need a lot of space. A single view chest x-ray takes up 15Mb and a Screening Mammogram can be 200Mb.

  13. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    @forever_knight:
    And that’s why we need national single payer health insurance.
    No one is or can be denied!

    @Andy S.:
    And what happens when it gets hacked by Russian or Chinese hacker who doesn’t give a damn about HIPAA?

  14. Hreshfull says:

    @Electoral College Dropout: I hope that comment was intended to be ironic.

    For those who don’t understand the reference, 10 * 0 = 0.

  15. theblackdog says:

    This is just a bad idea, and what is to stop a doctor from posting people’s records online without their knowledge?

  16. Crymson_77 says:

    @Electoral College Dropout: So…still zero right? :D

    @Greasy Thumb Guzik: That would upend our economy on its ear in a hurry. There is too much private money involved in health care and there would be too many jobs lost in the transition. Between hospitals, private surgery centers (use to work for a company that owns 160 to date), drug companies, etc. etc. etc. etc (yes, 4 required…) the upheaval of such a massive change to the system would cause the loss of more jobs than can be counted. On top of that, who do you think would run this wonderful new national single payer insurance? Our government…and really…are you masochistic?

    As for hackers, do you really think that Google will be any less secure than a doctors office that spends as little as possible on computers? And security for those computers? I bet I could walk into a doctors office anywhere in the States and I could pull up patient info on anyone who has ever seen that doctor in less than a minute. The problem with HIPAA is that you legally have to secure the data but you can do it in the minimal amount of effort as it only really covers PAPER records. Computer records are not covered in the same sense…as much as I wish they were…

  17. @Andy S.: Yeah, but do we trust that it being illegal will stop them?

    @Hreshfull: I’m sure it was.

    @theblackdog: I’d guess HIPPA would make that illegal but I don’t know what would actually prevent them from doing it. There is, after all, the medical equivalent of a credit score and they have to give up information to make that work.

  18. Beerad says:

    @Crymson_77: “there would be too many jobs lost in the transition.”

    While I agree that it would be a sigificant societal change (although one that I totally support), wouldn’t government control of health care likely end up with a net gain in jobs? I mean, it’s the government — efficiency isn’t exactly their strong point. Besides, private health care wouldn’t be outlawed, and why would drug companies, private surgery centers, etc. suddenly go out of business? The government need only act as an insurer, not have a monopoly on providing care or researching drugs.

  19. Crymson_77 says:

    The problem in the private sector of healthcare is that an immediate switch to a new system would cause them to be unable to collect and their business offices would become non-functional. This is more of a worst case scenario. As for net gain of jobs…would you rather increase the jobs where people are paid to perform or give them government jobs with healthcare where they get paid regardless…I’ll take the former as we can see at our local DMV what the latter gets you…

  20. Beerad says:

    @Crymson_77: I’ll take the latter, given how our current healthcare system “works”.

  21. @Hreshfull: & @Crymson_77: Correct-o-mundo. Boy nothin’ sneaks by you guys. The winky smiley was my hint.

  22. CurbRunner says:

    “People should have control over their own records.”

    Sounds all fine and dandy, until you place those records in cyberspace and by doing so essentially turn them over to any hacker who wants to get at them.

    The existence of privacy in cyberspace is a fallacy.

  23. cdan says:

    @ Chris: “On the other hand, if Google gets much more information about you on its servers, it will be able to create a clone who can seek you out and try to kill you.”

    Gizmodo called – they want their paranoia back

  24. drjayphd says:

    Color me surprised this exchange hasn’t happened:

    (random software developer): Hm, think I’ll have a ham sandwich for lunch.

    (three hours later)
    “Google Announces Plans For Online Ham Sandwich Service”

  25. JAYEONE says:

    @supra606: (raising hand in agreement)

  26. torazarot says:

    There are screenshots of the prototype available at Google Blogoscoped.

    To add to the discussion on privacy, I seriously doubt that Google would require any personal identifying information like a name or SSN. So if Google were to sell my info to an insurance company, or a hacker breaks into my data, all they’ll know is somewhere there’s a 5’10”, 26 year old female with migraines and narcolepsy. I think I’ll be okay with that.

  27. girly says:

    If we had this now, perhaps this lady would have some answers: [www.wesh.com]