Should The Government, Google, Or Another Company Manage Medical Records? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
10/17/2007
08:16 PM
Pete Spande
Pete Spande
Commentary
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Should The Government, Google, Or Another Company Manage Medical Records?

Marissa Mayer's presentation of Google's plans for the health sector was light on details and heavy on ambition. You can read more about the presentation here and here. Despite the lack of particulars, the scope of the possibilities the company is seriously considering is striking. The presentation made its ambitions know

Marissa Mayer's presentation of Google's plans for the health sector was light on details and heavy on ambition. You can read more about the presentation here and here. Despite the lack of particulars, the scope of the possibilities the company is seriously considering is striking. The presentation made its ambitions known, but raised all sorts of questions about whether this should be Google's place. Does "don't be evil" mean work for the public good?Mayer talked about the role Google currently plays in the health sector. If you're logged into Google and searching for relief from allergies, Google provides potential answers AND knows your interest in allergy relief. OK, fine. Who hasn't Googled a symptom or condition to learn more? Google doesn't know if I have allergies or my child does, or if I'm doing a paper for my 7th-grade health class.

Within 10 minutes Mayer was talking about housing the petabytes of digitized X-rays generated every year and Google's role in allowing individuals to store, search, and share their own medical records. Could Google have saved the thousands of medical records destroyed in Hurricane Katrina?

Mayer's polished presentation addressed the "hard problems" present in the area of health records. Difficult problems motivate engineers, and Google certainly has a lot of talented engineers seeking solutions to hard problems. Given some time, I'm sure Google could provide an elegant and useable solution.

But should it? This is a problem that seems best out of the hands of a company that makes its money primarily from advertising. The difference between knowing I searched for ways to minimize suffering from allergies and knowing what allergies I have as well as my blood tests, X-rays, etc. Do I get ads for Claritin while I'm using Google?

Portable and accessible medical records carry a great deal of value. Is this a project for the government to take on? I'd like to think so, but I'm not all that confident it would do a good job.

If this were just a technical problem, I'd say go for it, Google. But, I'm in no rush to upload my medical data on to my iGoogle account.

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