Google Unveils New Health Database Details
Ominous or not? Depends on your viewpoint. Yesterday Google announced new details of its controversial medical-records-storing project, combining a user database with databases of insurers, doctors, etc. They say they don't have plans to bring advertising in the mix -- guess we'll have to wait and see.
Google on Thursday laid out plans for one of its most anticipated new services, a digital health records system meant to give users more control over their personal healthcare.
The plans would put Google’s database of health records at the heart of a broader health information system that draws in health insurers, doctors and others, potentially giving the internet company a central role as the health industry moves towards greater use of information technology.
The initiative also opens a new front in Google’s spreading confrontation with Microsoft. The software company launched its own personal health records system, known as HealthVault, late last year.
Eric Schmidt, chief executive, outlined the Google Health plans at a conference in Florida on Thursday. The system will be based on personal health records that patients authorise their health insurers, doctors and others to move into Google’s database.
Other companies will then be able to write software applications that make use of these data, for instance creating services that help patients manage their medications or warn parents when their children need inoculations.
“There are a lot of applications you can’t envisage today,” Mr Schmidt told the Financial Times, adding that the overall aim was to improve the health of users by improving the quality of care.
That “platform” strategy could one day make the Google database the foundation of a more automated health information service. “We hope to get partnerships with all the health companies, so that if you have a prescription we just suck it straight in,” Mr Schmidt said.
Personal health record systems are not new, but the idea has been slow to catch on since there have been few incentives for doctors to automate health records or for patients to try to draw all their personal information together in one database.
The biggest incentives for people to use the new system include the ability to take control of their own records when they change health insurers or doctors, Mr Schmidt said. Also, patients who obtain drugs from more than one pharmacy will benefit if their records are consolidated in one place, he added.
For now, Google has no plans to sell advertising around the health service, Mr Schmidt said. Instead, it hopes to raise awareness of the Google brand and encourage greater use of its search engine.