Google Health makes its pitch

Google Health makes its pitch

Summary: "We have no plans to make this ad-supported. We will not sell the data." Instead Google hopes that increased Web usage will lead its users to ad-supported pages on their own. "This is a long-term approach. If you do that you can put the user first."


Google Health screenshot from Google BlogoscopedWith CEO Eric Schmidt not due in for HIMSS until Thursday, ZDNet got a sneak preview of the pitch for Google Health today.

Project Manager Missy Krasner called the site "a proxy for the consumer." All data entry, and data delivery, will happen behind a https secure Web page, and will stay under the consumer's control. A secure token will be exchanged before any data is delivered from the site.

Under HIPAA, Krasner said, consumers do have the right to control their own health data, and give it to whom they will. Google's aim is to help consumers build a Personal Health Record (PHR), distinguished from the Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) controlled by doctors or hospitals.

"We have no plans to make this ad-supported," she said. "We will not sell the data." Instead Google hopes that increased Web usage will lead its users to ad-supported pages on their own. "This is a long-term approach. If you do that you can put the user first."

While Krasner said Google has many partners involved in Google Health, its sole partner in the next two months will be the Cleveland Clinic. Its customers will be able to download their records into Google Health profiles.

This data transfer will not be handled by Google. Instead users will be directed to the Cleveland Clinic site, which acts as a Business Associate of Google in this case. The Clinic is a "covered entity" under HIPAA, and Google will not store its data, nor distribute it. The consumer will get their data from the Clinic, then control it through Google.

Once the data is at Google Health it becomes the consumer's property, accessible only at their log-in through the secured site. It can be shared in whole or, most important, in part. "You can lock items within your profile," such as the use of anti-depressants. "You are told before anyone gets your data."

The tiny Google booth (it's more of a stand, really) was mobbed on the first day of HIMSS, and not just for the Google swag like pot holders, pens and big, tasty, free cookies. Krasner said the company wants to collect questions, and objections, to the service so it can be rolled-out as carefully as possible.

Right now fewer than 5% of consumers have PHRs, which means they lack any control over their health records. Linking the creation of PHRs to medical EMRs is designed to create network effects in which both consumers and professionals will get on-board with a trend policymakers insist must come about if health care is to improve. 

Topics: Google, CXO, Enterprise Software, Health, Software, IT Employment

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  • Giving people data...

    While I'm sure giving Google your data is good for their analytics division, I think there are other options for patient activists like and .

    I wonder what kind of business model they are going to put on this? Selling anonymous data to pharma? Adwords on your medical record?
    • Why would you "wonder"... it says so right in the article.

      It specifically states in the article that you will own your own data... that Google will not sell your data... and that they will not show ads against your data.

      Instead, when viewing your information, Google may provide their own internal links to more information about a given topic... following such links could take you to ad supported pages. In other words, there will only be ads on pages that have generic content about a topic... not any of the pages that have your own personal information.

      As for the two links you provided, those appear to just be two "other" companies doing a similar thing as Google. So, if you don't trust using another company's service to manage your private data, then you wouldn't pick anyone at all. If you are looking for a company that has a proven track-record of keeping your private data private, I'd suggest using Google.

      There's a fine line between being cautious or carrying around pitchforks and torches.
  • Why PHRs *and* EMRs?

    I don't get why one would need a PHR if they already have web access to their EMR (which is exactly what Cleveland Clinic already provides through Cleveland Clinic MyChart)... what data would I be entering into my own record that wouldn't already be in my doctor's record? I don't get what role Google is trying to play.
    • why?

      because you cannot hide anything on your emr, so therefore your doctor has full access to EVERYTHING.

      phr, you could hide stuff and only reveal certain things based on your amount of trust to the person you are granting access.

      say someone had herpes or some std, you go apply at a fitness centre. maybe they want to check your health history to make sure you dont have heart problems or something so you dont get hurt working for them and sue.

      so you hide the std, because its not pertinent to the job and can only hurt your application.

      now before anyone jumps in and says "well then they can hide their heart attack they had the year before". sure, but if they do so, how would they be able to sue? they went in and applied to a job, the company checked for anything that might be a health risk, but you actively hid it. they cannot be responsible then.
  • RE: Google Health makes its pitch

    Is there any whitepaper, technical documentation or any technical background information of how this works or how its implemented in the hospital-environment of the Cleveland hospital?

  • I don't buy it....

    and I don't want it.

    "All data entry, and data delivery, will happen behind a https secure Web page, and will stay under the consumer???s control"

    Yeah, right. And I've got a bridge for sale...
    • good... please don't use it

      I think it will be a very useful tool, especially for someone like myself that moves around alot. I moved to my current location 2 years ago, and still haven't called my previous doctor to forward my medical records. This is ideal for someone that travels, or prefers to take on projects, instead of a regular job.
      I figure Darwin's rule will kick in after awhile, and maybe some of the paranoid, idiotic people of the world will die off before breeding... making the world a little more sensible.
  • Which is more important - your health or your privacy?

    A central repository of medical history and medications is useful to individuals with illnesses that require multiple doctors. Do you remember when you last had a tetnus booster? Or every time you were in the hospital? Or if you ever took a specific medication? Try to remember when you are filling out a patient history while getting ready to take a test on the status of your cancer. What about when you are unconscious and doctors need the information? Which is more important - your health or your privacy?
    Anyone over 50 has a long medical history and probably been treated by more than 10 different doctors (including specialists). How does one remember everything accurately?
  • It's sad that Google is the one stepping to the plate

    I think that many consumer could benefit from such a venture, but I think it is sad that it is Google who has to lead the ideas. It is nearly impossible to gather all medical records and imaging from several facilities to one central location, which would greatly benefit the patient. Many places take for ever to send info for comparison or care, and so delaying or missing crucial data. Not so sure if Google should host such a thing, but most people do not realize that the web is already used to pass medical information and store it.
    • It's good that they are stepping up ....

      .... can you just imagine the abuse that would happen if Microsoft owned it all?

      As far as health services etc go, well these entities are never anywhere need the leading edge.

      Someone has to do it, and not our favourite abusive illegal self-interested monopoly.
  • no trust

    Google has not yet earned my trust for such operations. One word: China.

  • RE: Google Health makes its pitch

    To Google my PHR or not to Google my PHR, that is the digitally delimited dilemma ... or is it?

    As a 33 year healthcare veteran, I would rather place my PHR under Google's encrypted protection than any sanctioned Federal repository. I believe my PHR info has a better chance of remaining both personal and private as promised by Google Health than it would based on the trusted assurances of anyone connected to the current Bush League Patriot Act cyber-cypher info-collector sponge squad.
    What's the sponge for, you ask?
    To scrub the PHR data clean to protect the populace, of course.

    We Google to discover what we want to know - we should also Google to protect what we don't want others to know.

    That is where the Digital Divid ends.
  • I like the idea...

    I signed up for a web site access to my current health provider's web site for my information to be on-line via their system. I thought this was an awesome idea. I do suffer from long term health issues, and would like to be able to access my data at any time as I often forget the steps taken by my doctors over the years for various treatments. However, their system soon failed, and now it has been taken offline. I believe this is due to poor management on their part. I miss that information.

    So, I'm glad Google sees that it is important enough to try this venture. My doctors didn't see it as important. I'm very upset at them. I do hope Google get's it right.

    Personally I think HIPAA is incorrect in it's methods. I'd rather see stronger penalties and stronger protection from the damagable side, rather than restrictions put on the data. I have no reason to hide my humanity, but I would not like to see someone miss-use that data. So if they did mis-use it, I'd like to see them hanged. But for those who would benifit, I hate having to "jump through hoops" to get them access I think they need.
  • Why does it matter so much?

    I wouldn't have much of an issue using this program, even if I wasn't confident that my information would be inaccessible to someone who decided to hack into it...
    I'm not really sure why people care so much if others know what they're medical record is. Outside of employers, who might choose to hire someone with a better health record than someone who has had pneumonia five times and take two months of work each time, I don't see why I should care if someone might be able to access my health records. I dunno why someone would want to, other than employers (who will get into a great deal of legal trouble if they're ever caught doing so), but even if they did, why would I care that much that I'd try to hide it?
    I'm not embarrassed about my health record, and maybe this might be helpful, particularly in the US. I have just seen sicko, and while I'm well aware that it's a biased movie, the fact that any of those things have ever occurred is absolutely disgusting. This, in my opinion, is the first step to putting public health into the hands of the public instead of the insurance companies. Besides, if a woman can be denied coverage for a procedure that she needs because she had a yeast infection years ago that she didn't include on her insurance application, this application might be a good place to keep track of every little cold or flu that you have, to insure that something like that never happens to you.
    But anyways, I'd really appreciate it if someone could explain to me the reasons why you would be so worried about the privacy of your medical records so much that you wouldn't trust google with it, even over https.
    • Personalized medicine is a great idea with one BIG problem

      Personalized medicine is now reality. I work in IT at a medical center which just launched a DNA repository. Today, we have the ability to scan DNA and be able to tell what drugs would work for you in a given disease state and which ones might kill you. So your Doctors would be better able to prescribe the correct medications based on how your body can handle them --- a very good thing, no more guessing and people receiving drugs or therapies that could kill them.

      However, this technology which is part of your EMR and soon, your PHR, could be used against you without the proper safeguards. For example, we could tell from your DNA that your genetics suggest you are susceptible to lung cancer or diabetes or alzheimer's disease. You have NOT been diagnosed with the disease but your DNA shows that you are vulnerable. If you have no privacy protection with your PHR or EMR, then an employer could factor that possibility of disease and choose a candidate over you because their DNA shows a lesser susceptibility. Granted, both of you are equally qualified and interview well, then how does the employer break the tie? Well, now there could be a way to discriminate against you for a disease you never had and may never contract. Many employers are demanding that employees can not smoke and must lose weight to maintain employment eligibility, will the possibility that you might contract a costly to treat disease someday in the future, maybe, be enough to deny you employment? I hope not.
  • med records

    actually the VA is set up so that Veterans anywhere in the nation can walk into any VA hospital, and all of their records are at the doctor's fingertips. I think this is a great step in that direction for private sector medicine. hopefully people wont have to carry around their medical records forever.
  • RE: Google Health makes its pitch

    Whom would you have securely store and mnanage your Personal Health Information your Local Doctor or a major reputable and highly experienced Data Center management firm with some of the best security and tightly managed services in the world ??
    • It depends

      If I was worried about someone trying to get "MY" health records I might opt for my local doctor since someone trying to get them would first have to know WHERE to look, then get pact some kind of security. Google type datastores, while possibly more secure, present a large juciy target for hackers and my data would be just another record for them to get.
      But this system or Microsoft's HealthValut offer a centralized store of data that a doctor's office wouldn't.
  • Sure, but since when do employers hack?

    I completely agree that in the workforce, your health records might put you at risk of becoming unemployed. However, since this information is private and the employer would require some hacking skills to access the PHR, it would be considered both illegal and immoral for an employer to break into my account and determine this information without my permission. If, say, I made the info in my PHR public (as in the employment vs Facebook controversy), then my employer would have every right to check it out. However, the information is deemed private, and if a potential employer would be willing to delve into personal, password protected information like my health records behind my back, well then go ahead and pick the healthier candidate over me, because there's no way I'd want to work for a company like that anyways.
    • Employers break in by remote control...

      Perhaps an employer, himself, won't break in to your health records. But We know from the "Hewlett-Packard" telephone-records scandal that employers do tell lies to get data, and also that they hire crooks to do anything to get data. The people responsible for the actual data thefts said their actions are done often, and by other companies, too.

      I doubt Google would be perfect--nothing is. But I would trust My data with Google before I would trust Microsoft, or the revel-in-illegal-spying telephone companies!

      Master Dave