Google Health opens pandora box of PHR sharing

Google Health opens pandora box of PHR sharing

Summary: This makes patients, not doctors, the primary gatekeepers of their own health data, assuming your doctor lets you download your Electronic Health Record into the Google PHR.


Google Health has enabled sharing of Personal Health Records (PHRs), a move that may anger privacy advocates but which is necessary if we're to gain real benefits from PHRs.

(Pandora's Box, by Arthur Rackham, is available as a framed print at Art.Com.)

Sharing is as simple as entering the service with your GMail password and typing the e-mail address of whoever you want to share with. The link expires in 30 days, it's a read-only link, and you get a report on who looked at the report when.

The service has also added a print feature. You can print a wallet-sized list of your medications and allergies, or a letter sized version of your whole profile.

While some news reports have called this a "social feature," it's really much more. This means that if you trust your chiropractor you can give them your doctor's report. And if you've put in any chiropractic data, vice versa.

This makes patients, not doctors, the primary gatekeepers of their own health data, assuming your doctor lets you download your Electronic Health Record into the Google PHR.

Matthew Holt of The Health Care Blog gets it.

Anyone who’s used Google Docs (and that includes all of us working at Health 2.0) immediately gets addicted to sharing those spreadsheets and text documents with a wider team. It’s so easy, you just invite them to it, and then one day you wake up and you’re sharing hundreds of documents with everyone you work with and cannot imagine how you did it before. 

While noting that this sharing is more limited, Holt notes that doctors with Google IDs can now have their patients share data with them by simply e-mailing requests to patients on the system. (For now the requests must be renewed regularly.)

Since most of us have more than one caregiver (I've got a dentist, a chiropractor, and a pharmacist for starters) this means primary care doctors can also get a much broader view of what their patients are doing than ever before.

Pandora's Box, indeed.

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

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  • But will the doctor be sued

    when he treats a patient incorrectlly as the patient did not want the doctor to know information because they felt "embarrased" about it, or felt it was not important enough to share with the doctor?

    Let doctors determine what doctors need, not the patient.
    • Patients already withhold information, or lie.

      Patients already lie, for instance about how much they smoke and/or drink, and withhold information. I agree that a doc shouldn't be sued when that happens, but it IS the patient's information, and his/her right to divulge or withhold it.

      Again, docs shouldn't be sued if such actions result in harm, though.
    • LOL Doctor get Sued??? Dr mistakes are the #3 cause of death in USA.

      Ahead of vehicle accidents and homicide combined. You stand a better chance walking away uninjured from a car accident, than a Doctors visit.

      Less than 5 of 1000 doctor victims is ever compensated any money PERIOD.

      Every one of the other 995+ victims MUST pay the doctor for the pain and anguish the doctor mistake caused. Or face collections and lawsuits themselves.

      Texas 2003 passed HB 4 (Prop 12) That gives 100% immunity to doctors. Unless it can be proved their mistake was "wanton and willful".

      How the heck can anyone prove someone else's thoughts? If your or I accidentally hurt someone, "wanton and willfull" or not. We'll have to pay.

      Doctors can't even say "I'm sorry I accidentally killed your child". That might leave them open for liability.
  • As one who works with Doctors as an education provider

    It will be decades before most Doctors will understand how to use this tool. I work providing on-line medical education and I got doctors who can not deal with a PDF download or understand how to set up a free user account. They want someone else to do it all for them. We recently sent a business reply postcard offer to over 12,000 doctors who were participants in educational activities at our institution in the past 24 months.

    We offered these medical professionals the opportunity to access medical education content free of charge including an audio book CD we would send to them or they could go to our website download the content as a podcast. 40% who returned the free post card asking for the CD to be sent failed to give a good mailing address. Only 26, so far, have downloaded the podcast from our website in the past 90 days. Over 60 doctors emailed me asking me to download the podcast and burn it to a CD for them, at our expense -- so I just sent them the original CD we offered from which the podcast came from in the first place.

    Don't take this wrong, there are doctors who can deal with technology very adeptly, but they are in the minority.
    • The Drs Age vs Ability

      I wonder what the break down of age vs ability to use technology is. Do younger physicians pick it up quicker because they have used technology from an earlier age? The younger people in my doctors office use PDAs and more and more "smart" tools. Unfortunately, there is a high percentage of physicians in the mix at this time.

    • Good New York Times article yesterday

      I think I referenced it in another post, but
      there was a fine New York Times article the
      other day about how doctors in small practices
      are being trained to use Electronic Health
      Records, and the importance of that effort in
      terms of health reform.
    • Stupid doctors

      Well, my distinguished friend, when you can take out someone's brain tumor and have them go home normal, let me know.
      • RE: Stupid doctors

        A little prickly there. Of course all doctors can do advanced brain surgery - that wasn't the point. The point was that specialisation in a subject doesn't mean competency in other areas such as ICT.
  • RE: Google Health opens pandora box of PHR sharing

    pandora's box you bet. All Health records are PRIVATE by Law.
    • Private yes, but the patient chooses the level of privacy

      Of course the health records are private. I wouldn't want anyone snooping in on my records.

      Though if I choose to share my records with someone else, that is my business.

      Doctors can choose what portions of the records are transferred to PHR. For instance, notes written in the margins don't have to be transferred. But procedures performed, diagnosis should be shred. This information is available on most insurance web sites anyways. My insurance company allowed me to export my data to MS Health Vault.

      So, I don't get it, what is the big deal all about?
      Are the docs afraid what patients will find out?
    • Private by Law?

      Ahh - you bet. You give anything to the lawgivers and you may as well toss it into hell. That's the way it will come out. To life and health insurance companies, lawyers with big bucks promised. All that just out there in the ether. Not me, my friend. And I was in the medical profession since 1953.
  • RE: Google Health opens pandora box of PHR sharing

  • RE: Google Health opens pandora box of PHR sharing

    EMRs? Handy, yes. BUT-this is a system that is NOT yet perfected in the private sector, never mind by the US Gov't. Horribly expensive to initiate & mantain. Also, you can get blocked out if a 3rd party vendor is involved, who, for example, doesn't pay THEIR software vendor! It has happened.Private? Don't bet on it people. We have more privacy now with paper. it's just as easy to fax something for a patient. You hear about hackers getting into these programs frequently. And you think the gov't will give you privacy under their EMR system? Big Brother will be watching you (& maybe restricting your care). Lawsuits? Patients who don't get a favorable outcome will always find a reason to sue, even if they lied or failed to disclose.(The EMRs can actually protect docs, not hurt them in a suit). But docs still have to get dragged through the mud anyway to prove their innocence. Any suit, dismissed or not, has to be reported each time for @ least 10 yrs. If the suit was frivolous, is that fair? We have held off in our office till this technology is a little more "time-tested". There is no margin for error with this.
  • RE: Google Health opens pandora box of PHR sharing

    I used to work in the Health Care profession as a medical transcriptionist (the person who types the reports for the doctors who dictate them either on tape or by use of Dictaphone. For years while I was working the Industry kept talking about paperless medical records. This would mean the doctors would have to use voice recognition software (which is still not perfect) or they would have to find other means of keeping records. (One doctor I know typed his own reports).

    Anyway, back in 2004, HIPPA was passed. This meant that absolutely no one in the health care industry could talk about their cases with others using their names without the patient's specific permission. I remember that nursing staff would be in the middle of the hallway talking about Mrs. Smith in room such and such and would be gossiping about that patient. Now what happens when a relative is within earshot of the hospital staff.

    HIPPA was meant to avoid having patient's private records kept that way. If you have more than one doctor, you have to sign paperwork that gives that medical establishment to share your records with someone else to whom you are being sent to.

    Is this the beginning of paperless medical records? I don't know. What I do know is that all of my doctors are on the same page, they work with each other in tandem and hopefully my privacy is protected.

    Just my experience!