Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Start, Maybe... 

Google has launched Google Health, a place to store personal medical records. It is a free service to millions of Google users and is a PR gesture in the best sense of that term. It might even work and begin the long process of automating health records. Among the many things that are wrong with the US healthcare delivery system, lack of automation is one of the most maddening. Every time one goes to a doctor, the same forms must be filled out time and again by hand. These forms are then stored as paper or in a siloed electronic data base where no one else can reach them.

In a country that has as much as or more computer power than anywhere else on earth, why is this happening? It increases medical errors, administrative costs and record-keeping burdens on doctors and medical staffs. The few hospitals in the US that have automated have noticed, for example, that incidences of prescribing wrong medications to patients have declined with automation.

While individuals may store their records with Google, there is a question whether the medical establishment will use them because of Federal law on the treatment of medical data -- the so-called HIPPA regulations. In the end, Google's good deed may come to nothing, but it is pointing to a path that should have been taken a long time ago.

Jim, you might be interested in this column by the Globe and Mail's tech columnist, Ivor Tossell.(The commentary that comes with the link came from the newspaper's email service:

"Who's tracking your health? Paging Dr. Internet"

Google, pursuing its strategy of monetizing omniscience, has launched a product that will track every bit of your health information. Everyone together now: Yikes! Called Google Health, it seems destined to exacerbate the pent-up fears that underlie our increasing reliance on massive technology corporations. But the scariest thing about Google Health is how useful it looks like it will be. It's an oasis of sanity in the madness of health-care record-keeping that we know and loathe. But will its Googliness be enough to keep people away?


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