Google, Verizon and online health care

What the two companies don't seem to want, and if you think about it a moment you will see why, is any unnecessary detail packed into new laws written by the Congress.

The "deal" announced by Google and Verizon today definitely has health care in mind.

(Handshake graphic from CNET's excellent coverage of this story. Thanks Marguerite Reardon and Tom Krazit for the good work.)

Getting health applications past regulators like the FDA, will require tracking of service quality, as well as serious assurances on both privacy and security.

If someone dies while wearing a heart or diabetes monitor, lawyers will want to know where fault lies before suing. There are famous and controversial figures using such devices, and there will be more. Device makers don't want to be caught with liabilities they did not create. So auditing of the data traffic becomes logical.

Putting those services inside the network makes little sense to me, but it makes enormous sense to the health IT industry, to the legal industry, to the regulatorium, to insurers, and to device makers. It may seem like the extended warranty on a PC, but people want to pay before they play, so carriers want to sell.

Essentially, you're building health applications into a private network, tracking that network, layering it on the public network, and charging for the extra services and expense. What's wrong with that?

Most of the public reporting on all this is pure nonsense. "Open vs. Paid Internets" Wired? Nothing on the public Internet will be allowed to sell improved priorities and you know it. Google is "evil," Huffington Post? There's no there there. A "private net neutrality deal," Ars Technica? There's no paper being signed, just a framework being offered for regulators from two vendors.

Under the original net neutrality rules proposed by the FCC, it's difficult to see how something like the NHIN Connect program would be able to use the current Internet, with its economies of scale. It features lots of value-added services -- authentication, encryption, security. It's designed to run on the wired Internet.

As to whether the lack of guarantees on wireless is a problem, that last mile is the most competitive in the market, with four national carriers and a host of others competing. If consumers are disadvantaged, any rules can be amended by simply giving the FCC authority to amend them.

What the two companies don't seem to want, and if you think about it a moment you will see why, is any unnecessary detail packed into new laws written by the Congress. Such laws are like prayer in school -- if they're strong enough to do good they'll do harm, and if they're weak enough not to do harm they can't possibly do any good.

One final point. This is the really the first word on possible new regulations, not the last. If Huffpo and the rest can convince voters they don't want this, they are free to try.

But they'll be cutting the health IT market in the name of ideology if they do.