ADVANCING HEALTH IT

March 4, 2008

Google's recent announcement of its Google Health Web service and a partnership with an Ohio health care system to advance personalized medical records appear to be innovative and promising developments, says the Washington Times.

Under the narrow, roughly eight-week pilot program with Cleveland Clinic:

  • As many as 10,000 patients are expected to volunteer for access to electronic health records.
  • The records will contain patient data such as diagnoses, prescriptions and treatments, and will be transferred from the hospital's electronic record system to a password-protected Google account.
  • Patients using Google Health will be able to enter their own health data into the Google accounts.

While the upside is that patients themselves will decide who they share their medical information, the cautionary side is that Google could potentially use the data sets to attract traffic for its online advertisements. While this could offer consumers information about a range of new products and services, it also could expose them to untested treatments and identity theft. Also, doctors and health insurance companies are understandably nervous that such accounts could be used for commercial purposes.

Nevertheless, widespread adoption of health information technology (IT) has the potential to save lives and dollars, which would be freed for other health care needs.  Data from the federal Department of Health and Human Services suggest health information technologies like these electronic accounts could save Americans $140 billion each year, and computerized entry of doctors' instructions like prescriptions and meal restrictions can reduce adverse drug reactions by 75 percent.  Also, electronic health records allow doctors and patients to receive automated electronic alerts about needed treatments and exams, thus improving preventive care.

Source: Editorial, "Advancing health IT," Washington Times, March 3, 2008.

 

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