By now, you have probably heard that Google has launched a new tool called Google Health which is designed to help patients store their medical records and manage their health. I couldn’t resist being an early adapter and thought I would review the site a bit.
It is a pretty neat concept and, as a big fan of Google myself, I can say that it maintains Google standards for easy maneuverability and is extremely friendly for the user. If you use a Google Reader as an aggregator – this is far easier to negotiate. You put in a few details about yourself, including your medications and already can gain access to a good deal of interesting information. For example, when you enter your medications, an automatic link is generated to the package insert for that drug, and there is an automatic assessment to alert you to whether or not the medications you are taking might have interactions or contraindications. The data base of medications also includes non-pharmaceutical items, such as fish oil and various supplements. It is breathtakingly thorough.
Google Health has partnered with several large providers so that some people will be able to download their medical records into their profile. For the rest of us who don’t use those providers, the use of the tool will not be as great. Nevertheless, to the extent that you can fill in your own medical record, it will still be useful. If you have a particular condition – say high blood pressure – the tool will also connect you to a wealth of on-line resources to learn about and manage the condition. I’m not certain that this is as thoroughly completed as it will be, as I entered in some common conditions that did not yet provide these links.
The natural concern here is one of privacy. In a posting on the Google Blog, the company states that privacy was a major focus in the development of Google Health. According to the posting "Due to the sensitive and personal nature of the data that will be stored in Google Health, we need to conduct our health service with the same privacy, security, and integrity users have come to expect in all our services. Google Health will protect the privacy of your health information by giving you complete control over your data. We won’t sell or share your data without your explicit permission."
That said, there is a cautionary note that I would sound here. If you use a computer at work to access Google Health, the sign in to reach your records, while password protected, remembers you when you return to the site. Once you’ve opened a window and accessed your Google Health profile, you don’t have to re-enter your password every time you access Google Health using that same window after navigating to another Web page. That, in turn, means that a stranger could use your computer and accidentally come across your records merely by going to the Google Health site if you’ve left the browser open. Google should consider making it impossible to access the record without re-entering the password after navigating away from the Google Health page.
All in all, very much worth exploring for individuals. And for pharma, it is worthwhile assessing the many ways this tool may impact and offer opportunities in marketing.