Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Google Health

Yesterday Google Health (Beta) allowed new users to take Google's new Personal Health Record (PHR) platform for a test drive. Although Google Health has little to do with health care wait times, EMR (Electronic Medical Records) is an integral part of office efficiency. I could not resist reviewing the product. As I'd previously posted, my belief is that Google would have done a greater service for the medical community by harnessing the power of their analytic abilities to improve health care delivery. Instead, Google is focusing on the Personal Health Record.

Overall Feel: Thank you Google for taking the initiative. Regardless of my thoughts on your business plan I still found the PHR to be intuitive and easy to use. The welcome screen is straight forward and information is easily entered. I had some trouble entering my past medical history (previous hospitalizations and the collar bone fracture I had when I was 12) but it records other aspects of my health easily.

Privacy: From a privacy point of view I was left wondering. The privacy statement itself is short and straight forward (in a nutshell, my medical history will not be sold or shared without my permission and I can revoke that permission at any time). But what will happen if Google is audited or general information is subpoenaed for some reason? Is my information still secure? Does it remain my property or that of Google's? I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wish the legal statement was a little more detailed.

Commercialization: Most of the web site has no advertisements on it but there are some subtle commercialized aspects. In the “Explore Health Services” there are both profit and not-for-profit agencies listed that offer advice. I wonder how organizations will make it to that list (highest bidder?). In the “find a doctor” section it seems to search by paid advertising if you search by specialty and as a general Google search if you search by name. Our office, for instance, is listed in the phone book but we do not take out advertising. I could not find my office in the search by specialty list and when I search by name many Google hits are returned.

Professional Use: The Google Health product is definitely geared to the consumer and not the professional. In its’ current state data entry takes too long and the chart format is not organized in a manner that a professional would find useful. I did not have any health records to import (you have to be connected to one of the beta centres such as the Cleveland Clinic) but I would have liked to seen how those records are organized.

Overall, Google Health easy to use but too simplistic. At this stage the early adopters and technology savvy patients will make use of it but I do not think there will be wide spread adoption. I also suspect, even fewer family doctors will make there records reconcilable with the Google database unless there is mass adoption or it benefits them in some way. Regardless, it is a start and will be interesting to watch over the next 5 years.

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