Google Health, the latest service from Google, was recently launched as a beta version. Online personal health services have been around for a while (including Revolution Health and Microsoft’s HealthVault) but here’s what Google says is different about theirs:
1. Portability:Through Google Health, you will be able to have access and control over your health data from anywhere. People who travel will be able to move health data between their various health providers seamlessly and with total control.
2. Ease of use: Clean, easy-to-use user experience that makes managing your health information straightforward and easy.
3. Partnerships: Due to the integration of third-party services you’ll be able to automatically import information such as your doctors’ records, your prescription history, and your test results into Google Health in order to easily access and control your data. In the future you will be able to do things like schedule appointments and refill prescriptions.
4. Security: Google Health will protect the privacy of your health information by giving you complete control over your data.
I was particularly curious about the security issue. Google Health is not regulated by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)-the national policy on health information privacy-because Google does not provide health care services.
In an Associated Press article, Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, said that by transferring records to an external service, patients could unwittingly make it easier for the government, a legal adversary or a marketing concern to obtain private information.
Google has provided a chart describing how their data confidentiality practices compare to those mandated by HIPAA. I am no expert on health information security but based on this chart, Google’s policies appear fairly similar to HIPAA’s.