We've all heard that phrase. You know the one, where you just can't believe what you've just been told, and your friend says "Don't believe me? Google it!" Well, those two little words are about to take on a whole new meaning.
Back in February, we reported on the search engine behemoth's plans to join other internet biggies in offering on-line storage of one's medical records:
"Thousands of patients at the Cleveland Clinic will be able to turn to Google to access their medical records online — everything from their prescriptions to diagnoses — in a pilot program announced Thursday..."
Now, that "pilot" has gone live, and national:
"Google Inc on Monday unveiled Google Health, a long-anticipated U.S. health information service that combines the leading Web company's classic search services with a user's personal health records online."
They've partnered with Walgreen's, CVS, even the aforementioned Cleveland Clinic. In addition to hosting your medical records, it's got a directory of local providers.
But the centerpiece of this effort is the actual warehousing of medical data. The EMR (electronic medical record) initially includes one's basic medical history, and is then updated as "things happen." The major difference between this model and ones already "in the wild" is that this record is actually owned by, and under the control of, the patient. This makes the record portable and easily accessible.
If there's a downside, it's the security aspect. As Bob reported a year and a half ago:
"medical identity theft is the last straw; after crooks steal their wallet and max out the credit cards, they turn to the health insurance card for even more freebies. "An insurance card is like a Visa card with a $1 million spending limit," says Byron Hollis, national anti-fraud director of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association."
Granted, Google has a major incentive to keep this info secure, but then again, so did the VA. It seems to me that the onus will be on Google to keep a tight rein on these files, and for participants to keep a close watch on their info, as well.