Google launches online health service

May 19, 2008 7:38:19 PM PDT
Google launched a new and sure to be controversial service Monday to put all your medical records online. Google Health already has dozens of partners. But what about patient privacy?

Google already lets you search for all kinds of information. Now it wants to be the repository of all your health information.

Called Google Health, you can sign up for it, then authorize dozens of partners to upload your medical records to Google's servers. You can then add your own data and decide who can access it.

"We are putting the sharing in the hands of the user, so it's at the user's discretion as to whether or not they want to share their profile and their information with anyone -- should it be an insurance company, or should it be an employer," says Google Vice President Marissa Mayer.

As part of its development over the past year, Google assembled its own medical advisory board. Dr. Dean Ornish is chairman. He says he's not concerned about privacy.

"Nothing is a hundred percent fool-proof all the time in every situation, but I think they've come about as close to it as one can reasonably expect," says Dr. Ornish.

Google says it created a special infrastructure with an additional layer of protection to prevent unauthorized access. The Cleveland Clinic is an enthusiastic partner. Its chief wellness officer doesn't expect breeches of security.

"All of us want that granularity where you can share medicines, you can share this diagnosis, but not that, this treatment/illness, but not that, because you don't want to share everything, and so they will develop that granularity. Right now, you as the individual patient control that," says Dr. Michael Roizen, Cleveland Clinic's chief wellness officer.

Google believes central record keeping will improve the quality of care and even alert patients to dangerous drug interactions.

Drawing more users to Google will enhance exposure to its ads. Google does anticipate analyzing some stored records. It gave this example.

"Ten percent of diabetics last year who are Google Health users had a flu shot. That would be aggregated information that couldn't be tied to any individual that we would feel comfortable sharing," says Dr. Roni Zeiger, Google Health product manager.

For now, Google Health is only for U.S. users, but it clearly has the potential to become a global service.

ABC7 Extra:

Read David Louie's live blog during Monday's tour from inside Google's Mountain View headquarters.


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