Playing with Google Health

Strategic Alliance Partnership | <b>Cleveland Clinic</b>

Google is in good company with respect to trying to develop a workable solution to the medical records issue. And the Cleveland Clinic is apparently pleased with their two-month trial of the online solution.

Okay, I was intrigued when I saw the New York Times article yesterday on Google Health. As the article points out, Google is in good company with respect to trying to develop a workable solution to the medical records issue. But the Cleveland Clinic is apparently pleased with their two-month trial of the online solution, and, being a fan of Google tools in general, I had to check it out.

If you haven’t already tried Google Health, all you need to use it is your free Google account. I use Gmail, and was able to log on right away. So far, so good. And I saw service providers that actually related to me, like Medco and Quest Diagnostics.

The service says it offers you the ability to link to providers through a process in which you set the permissions yourself (you don’t want to give any company the ability to run willy-nilly through your medical records), but when I tried to link to Quest Diagnostics, I wasn’t given any options — the permissions were pre-set such that Quest is only provided the ability to send information to my file.

To get my laboratory test information from Quest via Google Health, my physician would have to provide me with a PIN. And perhaps I’m overlooking it, but I don’t see a way to unlink to a service once I’ve linked to it.

I received no message for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center(BIDMC) when I indicated I wanted to link to that service. I was taken straight to PatientSite, where I have to log on again. Since Google Health indicates that medical records can be imported from BDIMC, perhaps users are left to assume that all information transfer is one-way, similar to the service with Quest.

I also reviewed the Cleveland Clinic service summary, which said that the patient is able to import information, but gave no mention of sending information to the Cleveland Clinic. Like the BDIMC service, the Google Health link simply takes you to a Cleveland Clinic URL for its own online tool. Again, the information on the web site does not indicate that you can export any information or that your doctor can see your Google Health records. That ability may be there somewhere (according to the Times article and the Google Health privacy policy, it is), but you wouldn’t know it looking on the outside in.

Sigh... I guess there’s a reason for that little gray “BETA” in the Google Health logo area.

And speaking of the privacy, there is this little blurb in the Terms of Service that lets users know that Google Health is not a “covered entity” under HIPAA, and therefore the provisions of that law do not apply to how Google ultimately handles your personal information. You basically just have to trust Google to do the right thing.

Still, from just the basic overview, I think the Google Health model has merit. I can see how parents might use the tool on a regular basis to get lab test results, request prescription refills, etc. I would be interested to see what the tool can do for the clinician.

Is there anyone who is working with the tool yet, or who has reviewed or considered it? Share your thoughts and experiences here.