Readers respond to Google Health launch

By Google’s recent launch of its Health Beta personalized health records provoked great commentary from THCB’s expert contributors and thoughtful comments from readers. Generally, readers acknowledge Google’s system is not flawless, they are enthusiastic something tangible finally exists.

But the privacy concerns persist.

In response to Matthew’s "Serious test drive," E-patient Dave wrote,"The privacy issue is simply huge. I don’t know why the advocates don’t get it. The lay people I talk to *all* express concern about it; some flat-out say "No WAY I’m giving them my data."

He continued,"I’d feel a lot better if all the enterprises that want to get into this great opportunity (and it is one) would work to get HIPAA updated to cover their case."

Keith Schorsch’s post on whether consumers care about Google Health also generated a lot of comments — mostly from people who shared his skepticism.

"While I agree that there certainly is and can be value in a PHR for
consumers, I think this is the right discussion. Do consumers even know
what a PHR is and that it is an option for them? I think Forrester’s
data shows that something like 75% of consumers don’t," George Van Antwerp wrote

Health IT insider David Kibbe’s post on how Google Health is different sparked responses from several readers.In
response, Michael B. wrote, “The question is, how will Google incent
providers to make their patient’s information readily available? I
posed the question to a Google exec at a health care conference earlier
this year. He indicated that demand will come from the patients and
that will provide the incentive for providers to participate. I don’t
think that is a rational expectation considering the structure of our
health care system.”Kibbe’s response: “I do agree that getting
one’s doctor, clinic, or hospital to upload one’s health data into
Google Health or Microsoft Health Vault is a key to success. What’s the
chicken and the egg there? If I value GH, I’ll put pressure on my
doctors to participate and help me. If they care about me and my
patronage, then they’ll be motivated to do so. Only time will tell!”

Bob Wachter, a member of the Google Health
Advisory Council, wrote an excellent post taking readers inside Google Health.

“Ultimately, patients need to
be able to control their own health records, and to have them reliably
available when they move from hospital to skilled nursing facility;
from primary care doc to specialist; or from car crash to an ER far
from home. At this moment, I see Google Health as the best hope for
accomplishing this in the near future, and as a remarkable opportunity
to blend the scrapbook aspects of a personal health record with all
kinds of functions that might well lead to better health and
health care," Wachter wrote.

Some Google doubters emerged.

Caitlin shared her concerns: “My mind is not quite made up on what I think of Google Health,
although this article has provided some tangible information (despite
the adulation) that helps me to see its potential utility.”

And David Hamilton asked why Google is so concerned about
protecting itself from lawsuits, if the technology is as secure as it purports. “One major issue still nags at me,” Hamilton wrote. “If
Google is as committed to patient privacy as folks like you and John
Halamka insist
, why do the Google Health terms of service go out of
their way to insulate the company and its partners from all but trivial
liability should legal issues (presumably including any resulting from
privacy breaches) arise?”

Sherry Reynolds commented that the current status of HIT systems is a
public health emergency and that she’s excited something finally exists. “Google Health will hopefully allow us to create a ‘hastily formed
network’ around this issue and has created the conditions that are
necessary but not sufficient to solve the problem of information
aggregation by building the organizational structure we need," Reynolds wrote. "For those of us out in the trenches implementing EMR’s at large health
care systems and struggling to empower and engage consumers in complex
systems this is one of the most exciting moves we have seen.”

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