Google Wants Your Medical Records
from the well-of-course-they-do dept
While it’s been rumored for years, Google is finally revealing a little bit about its Google Health plans, as it’s opening up the service to a few thousand patients of the Cleveland Clinic. Those patients will be turning over their medical records to Google which, of course, is raising security and privacy concerns. It probably doesn’t help that the news of this is breaking at about the same time as reports that Google accidentally exposed Gmail accounts in Kuwait. Exposing emails is bad enough, but your health records? Obviously, one hopes that Google is doing everything possible to protect the info, but as the AP report points out, Google is not covered by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act,), meaning that even under the best intentions of Google, handing your records over to the company could make them easier for the government or legal adversaries to get at those records, since they’ve left the bounds of protected communication between a doctor and patient.
Despite all of that, there is something to be said for granting individuals more power to manager their own medical records. Assuming Google could make those records more searchable, more understandable and more useful by putting additional services around them, you could see how that could be valuable. On top of that, one of the benefits of such a service could be to allow medical providers easy access to specific, relevant portions of your medical history. However, Google isn’t the only player trying to build such a system (with Microsoft having already announced something similar), and as we discussed about a year ago, perhaps a better solution than a centralized system (which is prone to attack) is to allow individuals to store and manage their own records. While some people may feel comfortable trusting Google to store the records, it seems likely that plenty of others will rather control the data themselves, while still being interested in making use of the value-added features one imagines Google will be providing.