An unofficial blog that watches Google's attempts to move your operating system online since 2005. Not affiliated with Google.

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December 10, 2006

A URL for Your Health Records

Health is a complicated subject: usually you care about it only when there's something wrong. Google's Adam Bosworth realized people aren't in control of their own health information.

"There is no place individuals can go to get a comprehensive set of health and medical information about themselves. Access to this comprehensive information can be vital to proper and timely diagnosis of the patient, to the patient getting the best possible treatment, and, perhaps sometimes overlooked, to the patient getting the best possible ongoing care and support after the initial treatment, especially for chronic illnesses. (...)

We need to put control into the hands of the sick and their caregivers and to gently suggest that those who treat them, medicate them, test them, or diagnose them, are out of date if they do not instantly deliver this information to the patient. Once this happens, we will see truly great decision support systems and specialists and health coaches help the hapless patients much more rapidly determine what is truly wrong with them."

Your health record can be shared between healthcare providers if that's necessary, so an easy-to-access health URL that works like a private Google Docs document, to which you can invite people, is just an evolution.

This is one of the preconditions of a Google Health product, that manages health records and helps people use them better.


  1. The amount of laws that govern this sort of information (at least in California) are insane. Doctors cannot email patient information to a hospital because of the risk of interception. Securing the information involves jumping through a number of differently sized and randomly placed hoops set by people who do not understand technology. If Google manages to pull this off, all the more power to them. Current EMR solutions do a great job of capturing all data a doctor could possibly need to capture, and I doubt Google could top them for at least the next five years. But the legal issues are still there, thwarting attempts by doctors to make things go smoother.

    Good example: In California, it is illegal to change your medical records-- even if they are wrong.

  2. 'An URL' is wrong English. Because it sounds like yoo-R-L, the correct form would be 'a URL' :)

  3. I've changed the title before you post this comment. But thank you anyway and I hope you forgive me. English is not my native language.

  4. Purists insist that URL is pronounced U-R-L. Many people say it something like "earl". In that case "an URL would be correct." Beware the pedant. In the US there is no Academy of Language. Time will tell us who wins this debate.

  5. Could this be Google Weaver / M Scrapbook service that I spotted all that time ago?

    I think we need to keep our eyes on this URL:

  6. I guess the privacy issue will always be a concern.

    I think one potential way around it is to isolate any type of information that can be used to identify a person (name, address, social security number, birthday, finger prints, etc) from the medical data itself. So from this perspectice, you could have a document reference number with information about the medicial records without referencing the actual person. But with the personal info, you could potential reference the record.

    Although then there is the grey area of DNA, genome, etc which could potentially be an identifier of a person and a source of identifying medical conditions.

    Then the medical data (without the identification information) could be used to analysis people with similar conditions and how they were diagnoised or treated.

  7. You can't e-mail UNENCRYPTED patient records. So you really just need good/fast/consistent encryption key management. How hard could that be :-)

  8. Have you checked out Security is their number one priority. Everything is military grade encryption and all personal documents can be stored with 24-7 international access. i think this looks like a fabulous new service.

  9. I like this article. I am a little concerned, however, to turn my health records over to companies like Google and MS. Considering Google already reads emails in gmail accounts to advertise to its users, I already know why they want to do it. It is just wrong.

    Health care information should be private to the patient and the health care provider. Quite some time ago I created a personal health record on Zebra Health. I like their approach to it because it is secure and controlled completely by the patient. They also do not have any advertising on their site, nor do they charge for any of their services.

  10. Just wanted to mention our patient activist and physician oriented Health Search startup "CureHunter". One of our main design goals is to bring patients and physicians closer to the research so they can make the most educated decisions possible and truly begin to practice Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) in real-time.

    ...without giving anyone your medical records!

    Please check it out if you get the chance.

  11. Dear Google, you Google are hereby notified to immediately remove and also forevermore assure that you never add any information whatsoever about me, including you Google never adding any information whatsoever about me such as any health information.

  12. I think the concerns about the honesty in the treatment of sensitive data are legitimate .. but presuming the data is treated acordingly with the users will.. (think also of banks, government agencies etc.) but also think of other positive aspects like research use .. again respecting the users will. For example I would allow my data to be used but not my name and personal data so researchers could compare and study real world cases using an incredible amount of fast, well organiced and available data.
    this tool can grow over time including more types of related data like ex.patients coments, point of view before and after tanking medicaments.. surgery. a diet and or exercise record could come into the picture.. etc..

  13. Certainly having a consolidated area for health records is a good idea. However, privacy compliance in the US is no where near strong enough to be able to protect the records. Sharing highly sensitive information on a public site is not a good idea.

    If compliance with privacy requirements at the federal and state level was better, it could work, but sadly it isn't. Every day we receive news about privacy breaches.

    Remember, Just because we can doesn't mean that we should.

  14. Google would need to go a long ways towards ensuring intention and privacy rights before I would provide them any of my personal information. Along the lines of 'If Google ever violates these intentions/privacy rules, either intentionally or not, we will send our CEO to jail for life' - that about the level of commitment I would need.

  15. Another quick way to lose your health insurance in the U.S., if you haven't lost it already.


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