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Commentary
2/21/2008
10:30 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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Google Wants Your Medical Records

Last fall, Google announced that it will begin pushing into the health care arena by creating an electronic medical records system. The day for that push has finally come. Today, it announced a trial with the Cleveland Clinic

Last fall, Google announced that it will begin pushing into the health care arena by creating an electronic medical records system. The day for that push has finally come. Today, it announced a trial with the Cleveland Clinic that is supposed to give patients and doctors alike better access to a central records system that stores your health information. About time, or too risky?The Cleveland Clinic already keeps electronic records for all its patients. The existing technology being used by the clinic has built-in safeguards that do things such as alerting doctors about negative drug interactions. The clinic also has convinced some 120,000 patients to enroll in an electronic medical records program, called eCleveland Clinic MyChart, which lets them use a secure Web site to access their own records, make appointments, or automatically renew prescriptions. So where does Google come into play?

This particular trial allows the patients enrolled in the MyChart program to tie their EMRs to a Google account. They can then utilize Google's search capabilities to search for other practices that offer EMRs, or research health plans. Then they can choose to share their medical information with whichever health care professionals they choose with the touch of a button, preventing re-doing histories, lab tests, and more. For starters, the data is being limited to info about allergies, lab results, and current medications.

Not bad.

I recently had to switch physicians. The one I left had the coolest techno set-up ever. It included a complete electronic system whereby all patient records were stored locally on a server. He used a tablet PC and PDA to interact with those records, make notes, and add information to patient charts. Whenever I needed a prescription for anything, he fired it off to my pharmacy wirelessly directly from his PDA. This is how physicians' offices should be operating.

My new physician, by comparison, is no more advanced than the doctors I saw as a kid. None of my previous information was transferred. A complete history had to be taken all over again and everything stored in gigantic paper filing cabinets. The technology is there to prevent this. Why not use it?

Well, Google and the Cleveland Clinic are.

Of course, privacy advocates are concerned. If the system were ever compromised, the health records of thousands of patients would be exposed. I, for one, think we need to move forward with our health system and the way it collects and stores information. EMRs are one way to do it.

But should it be Google doing this? What about the government? Who's responsibility should EMRs be, and who should pay for it?

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
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