June 23, 2008

Google throws its hat into the electronic medical records arena

Search behemoth Google is making its initial foray into the electronic medical records (EMR) business with the recent launch of Google Health. (Also see the FAQs). This service goes toe-to-toe with Microsoft's Health Vault in the race to become the web's dominant player. Some large health plans such as Kaiser Permananete have been rolling out EMR programs to members. And a single medical record digital system that was implemented by the military a year ago is improving care and eliciting favorable reviews from patients.

A single, portable, user-controlled medical record that is available online offers many potential benefits. People would have medical information such as diagnoses, lab reports, and prescriptions downloadable from providers in a single record that would be accessible anytime and anywhere. Single records will create efficiencies and eliminate duplications. Plus, a host of other user-controlled benefits would follow, such as medication management that would screen for potentially harmful interactions, an alert system for scheduling tests or screenings, and even device connections that would allow electronic readings of such things as blood pressure and sugar monitors. It would be much easier for consumers to manage their health care, particularly for complex conditions.

But there are impediments, a primary one being physician adoption. Fewer than one out of every five doctors are using computerized patient records, according to a recent report in the The New England Journal of Medicine (see NYT: Most Doctors Aren’t Using Electronic Health Records.) The study reports that the physicians who are using electronic records report many advantages: 82 percent said they improved the quality of clinical decisions, 86 percent said they helped in avoiding medication errors and 85 percent said they improved the delivery of preventative care. For those who haven't moved to computerized records, the initial cost and disatisfaction with available products were cited as barriers.

Among consumers, privacy is front and center as a barrier to adoption. Scare stories abound. Consumers fear medical record theft and fraud, data mining by insurers and providers, and leaks of sensitive medical data to inappropriate parties such as employers. Of course, such security breaches can happen offline, too, but the ability to search data adds an additional layer of concern. Consumers want legal protections, including the ability to control who sees what. Services like Google and HealthVault have plans to keep controls with the consumer, but the public may be skeptical given the many security breaches that have occurred with identity fraud. Problems or not, the trend is clear so keep alert for developments on this front. A new Medicare pilot program by Health and Human Services aims to offer physicians incentives that will lower the cost barrier and hasten adoption rates.



I read with great interest your blog about electronic medical records. MyMedicalRecords.com (MMR) is an advanced patient health record and an Integrated Service Provider on Google Health.

Using MMR, complete patient records can be easily faxed, voiced, or uploaded into a password-secured, web-based account. An emergency log-in feature also allows access to your critical medical information in the event of an emergency, and it has a drug interaction database for prescriptions, as well as many other features.

Scott Smith
10100 Santa Monica Blvd #430
Los Angeles CA 90069
888-808-4667 ext. 123

Google is getting their hands into everything these days! While I do like the idea of having information in a single point of access with more emphasis on a user controlled system, there would have to be some serious privacy protection on it. More doctors need to start adopting this so that the technology can develop into a mainstream process.
Nice blog!

From an IT perspective, for this to be truly useful there needs to be some sort of standard that allows the electronic data to be transferred from one system to the other. Is your medical record from Kaiser compatible with the Blue Cross data system? It would be miserable if you had to re-build the record from scratch each time you changed doctors. Perhaps an the health care community should create and adopt an ANSI standard?

Second, regarding the privacy issue, there has to be some way around this. There are lots of instances where consumer records are kept in one consolidated place (so to speak). The best example - credit scores and credit reports. This information is in a central location, and generally speaking would be very valuable to identity theives, yet the public accepts this system. And just like medical records, financial records can possibly hold embarassing and damaging personal information (bankruptcy, forclosure, etc.). There is no reason why, if we can keep financial information in a central electronic location we can't do the same with medical records.

Another thought - there was an article on a recent calvacade of risk (I wish I had the original link) that stated that medical records can actually be more valuable to an identify theif than financial records. The reason? It takes so long for the consumer to realize that there has been a breach and even longer to fix the problem, so the records are viable longer. A central records system, similar to what has been set-up with credit bureaus, etc., may fix this problem as well, and make it less likely that one's records will be stolen or misused.

Just a thought.

WOW! Great to hear about Google health. Electronic medical records is nothing but computer-based patient medical records where we can get the complete information of the patient. It has many advantages, so it's better to use them.

Thanks for the comments, folks. As to some of the consumer privacy issues that have been raised, note the high level of consumer skepticism in this discussion of the announcement of the Google news - the discussion touches on EMR pros and cons, privacy, and other issues: A Google a Day. (Alert: some comments may not be considered safe in all workplaces) Metafilter is a community of relatively tech-savvy users, a group that would normally be receptive to Google innovations. Many commenters note that the issue of privacy is already rather illusory, that EMTs are definitely going to happen whether you are a participant or not, and it is just a question of who will control the record: you or your insurer.


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This page contains a single entry by Julie Ferguson published on June 23, 2008 6:29 AM.

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