Google CEO coughs up Australia Health plans

Google CEO, Eric Schmidt yesterday said he hopes to deliver Google Health to Australia by the end of the year -- but local representatives say discussions, which are expected to be lengthy, haven't even started yet.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said yesterday he hopes to deliver Google Health to Australia by the end of the year -- but local representatives say discussions haven't even started yet.

Australia's various state-based e-health record initiatives could be set for a shake up this year if Schmidt's plans for Google Health in Australia are realised.

Yesterday the Google head acknowledged tough regulatory hurdles would need to be overcome first, but said he hoped to bring the service to Australia by the end of the year.

Google CEO Schmidt (right) talks up health plans Credit: Builder AU

"Because of the way health regulations work, we have to roll out Google Health on a per country basis. And so we would hope to bring it to here later this year, subject to us meeting regulatory requirements," Schmidt said.

Google Health was announced in the US last month and aims to allow patients to access medical records such as X-rays, CAT scans and other health data over the Internet.

The service, though not yet fully implemented in the US, will aggregate over 200 separate repositories of health records into one online portal through Google Health.

The system stores all the health records of a patient and enables users to import records from different health provider systems, as well as search for doctors and get information on conditions from Google Scholar, discussion groups, and other sources.

In Australia, similar initiatives have been undertaken by some state health departments.

One such initiative was announced by the South Australian Health Department earlier this month, with the launch of an online health record service although access to the system is limited to healthcare professionals.

Likely partners to Google Health in the US are Walgreen, Aetna, Wal-Mart Stores, the University of California at San Francisco, the American Heart Association amongst others. However, in Australia it's too early to say which organisations will partner with Google for a similar service, a Google Australia spokesperson said.

"We're going to focus on getting it right in the US. And then we need to do all the due diligence to ensure it complies with all Australian requirements," the spokesperson told ZDNet.com.au.

Schmidt may have even jumped the gun by announcing Google's health plans for Australia yesterday, according to the spokesperson.

"It's fair to say that discussions haven't started yet in Australia," the spokesperson said.

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