Web2Summit: Google Health–Groundwork Needed?

This afternoon, Marissa Mayer, Google’s Vice President for Search Products & User Experience, gave a brief, unsubstantial presentation on health information, which—no surprise—Google wants to help you find. They’re also interested in helping you store and access your own health records. While giving people more control over their own data is an important idea, not to mention a trend we hope to see more of, Google may have to build (or rebuild?) user trust before people make it the repository of their most sensitive information.

Mayer didn’t touch on privacy or personal data portability, and there wasn’t time for audience questions or comments. If you could help Google bolster its reputation for protecting personal data, what would you suggest they do? Or—given that many of us already trust Google with our email, calendar and other information—is this a non-issue?

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  • Alin Hanghiuc

    I would suggest that they build and use some sort of open encryption scheme, guarantying that your personal data can’t be viewed by anyone, not even Google.

  • The questions here go far beyond data portability. HIPAA, data ownership and the goal of PHRs all come into play. For example, if consumers have control of their record, are they putting themselves at risk if they choose not to disclose parts to a healthcare provider. How will payers interact with such systems?

    I think one reason Google has not released a product, unlike Microsoft, is because they are not sure what the rules of the game will be. Congress is going to pass some laws, HIPAA needs to apply, and the business model is unclear at this point. In fact, I am not even sure the record should be anything more than a way for people to manage their own health records, and make informed healthcare decisions based on integration into health information systems and search engines.

  • I work for a medical school and deal a lot with computers and stuff. I am very glad that at the moment I don’t have to worry about electronic medical records because our dept still relies on paper charts. That said, I would be hesitant to hand over my personal health information to Google or MS without a lot more information. I don’t trust either company that much.

    I like the idea of some sort of clearinghouse holding a person’s PHI, probably on a subscription basis on the part of the patient, but the idea of Google or MS holding the info makes me wary without knowing more. I don’t trust them to act in the interest on the patient. I figure they would sell the info to third parties or they would have bots read the record and push ads to me based on that info.

  • It occurs to me that this situation (clearinghouses for PHI) is not entirely different from that of credit reporting bureaus. Financial information is a close second to health information, in my opinion, in the importance of privacy.

    However, there are for-profit firms who aggregate, and dispense this information in an expedient way. This has allowed a great deal of efficiency and speed in the retail banking world. Consumers must consent to the collection, and ultimate dissemination of their financial info before it can be shared.

    I don’t see how google health is much different. nothing happens that the patient does not ultimately allow.

    Frankly, I’m all for it because in the end, it is the choice of the consumer, and the consumer has complete control.