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On Health Records

By - April 17, 2008


The Times reports on a New England Journal of Medicine article that raises some important questions:

In an article in The New England Journal of Medicine, two leading researchers warn that the entry of big companies like Microsoft and Google into the field of personal health records could drastically alter the practice of clinical research and raise new challenges to the privacy of patient records.

….But their concern, stated in the article published Wednesday and in an interview, is that the medical profession and policy makers have not begun to grapple with the implications of companies like Microsoft and Google becoming the hosts for vast stores of patient information.

The issue is this:

Microsoft and Google, the authors note, are not bound by the privacy restrictions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or Hipaa, the main law that regulates personal data handling and patient privacy. Hipaa, enacted in 1996, did not anticipate Web-based health records systems like the ones Microsoft and Google now offer.

The authors say that consumer control of personal data under the new, unregulated Web systems could open the door to all kinds of marketing and false advertising from parties eager for valuable patient information.

Microsoft responds saying it’s wary of government regulation. Google is not quoted as responding. I wonder what its response is to this issue?

(thanks, Marc)

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4 thoughts on “On Health Records

  1. Alex says:

    Heads off to you and your team. This is very great work. Keeping the track record of the patients is very useful and also important, so that who ever attends the patients will understand their situation.

  2. JG says:

    implications of companies like Microsoft and Google becoming the hosts for vast stores of patient information.

    Like I said a few weeks ago: The current solutions are pointing the barrel of the gun in the wrong direction. I don’t need my medical information hosted at either of these companies. I need to be able to search to find information about the doctors, hospitals, and treatments from which, at which, and through which I am receiving care.

    Let me search everything else, not myself. That’s what I, as a consumer, want. But again, all I get are things like gChat and Calendar.

    Who ever thought that hosting my medical data would be a good idea? I don’t get it.

  3. nmw says:

    There are situations in which it might be useful to transfer medical data — but certainly not to host it for public viewing. I can imagine that companies such as Google and Microsoft, who are interested in building detailed profiles of their users, may very well also *want* health records — but I sincerely doubt that will get off the ground *this century*.

    Nonetheless, I *do* believe that there would be ample demand for information resources and even tele-medicine — but I do not see a a consumer technolgy company such as either Google and/or Microsoft playing a major role in such scenarios.

  4. Skeptic says:

    This is good bit of information that be even more insightful.

    The question that I have is ‘who stands to gain by MSFT or GOOG not being involved?’ In other words, can you conclusively rule out conspiracy theory here?

    I’m referring to the current data owners (i.e., providers etc) who are regulated under HIPAA, may be trying to keep the commercial vendors out of this?

    Is this research motivated or independent – that’s all I need to know. Whose grant is supporting this work?

    The reason I bring this up is that the widespread deployment of EHR/EMR in the US has been clogged up partly by several vested interests citing insufficient measures (such as the one being mentioned), and a lack of consistent standards for interoperability.

    Any information on these aspects will be very illuminating, I think.

    On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that I’m totally paranoid and overly skeptic or utterly uninformed!