I always wondered what would happen if Google Health decided to launch in Canada. Would there be an effect on the Canadian Healthcare system? Or would PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) get in the way?
About a year ago Google announced that it would launch a service to allow users to store their own health records on a secure website. There was a lot of discussion about what it would look like but the wait is over. A free public “beta test” version of Google Heath is now operational at google.com/health.
The service allows users to create an online profile that includes information about any medical conditions, test results, procedures, immunizations and medications. You’re also asked to enter in your height, weight, blood type and race. With this information, the service, in theory, could offer you tailored medical information as well as serving as a central hub storing your medical records.
Eventually the goal is for users to be able to import their health information from the secure websites of care providers. To that end, Google already has arrangements with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the Cleveland Clinic as well the online pharmacies from Longs Drugs, Walgreens, RXAmerica and Medco. A relationship with Quest Diagnostics allows users of its services to import their lab tests. Google also has a link to the American Heart Association’s heart attack risk assessment site so that you can get your customized risk assessment without having to retype your height, weight, cholesterol and other into the Heart Association’s site.
One nice feature is the drug interaction alert that lets you know about potential conflicts between drugs you take. Of course, you have to remember to enter all your drugs for that to work.
Because none of my providers are among Google’s initial partners, I had to enter all the information myself. Fortunately, it was easy to find because the health clinic I use most of the time has its own online service that stores this information. I’m pretty happy with what my provider offers but it’s an island of information. If, for example, I were to have a blood test done elsewhere, that information would not be on my provider’s site nor is there a way I could even type it in. Google is trying to solve that problem by creating a health record keeping system that is controlled by the user, not the health care provider. This is especially important for those of us who don’t belong to a health maintenance organization (HMO) because we might visit different physicians who are not affiliated with each other.