Google Health: A Data Collecting Tool?

Google, which offers services for everything from email to blogging, from maps to finance, recently released a service called Google Health. At first I thought this was yet another remarkable and innovative tool offered by Google to organize one’s life and consolidate everything into one place. I was ready to jump all over it and quickly hand them over all my personal health data and see what it offered. Then my brother stepped in and said one statement on it that has made me reluctant to touch this for the past two months.

“So Google will have every little detail about your life on you now”

I try not to be skeptic about things before trying them out but in today’s age when courts are forcing companies to hand over user data and anything else they may have logged about their activity, who is to say that some day in the not too distant future Google is made to hand over medicial data as well?

Fortunately, I have been quite healthy recently and have not require much medical assistance than some others I know but I am still not certain this is something I would recommend to them. Leaving aside the privacy issues, this could falsely power the patients into making decisions that they are not properly educated about or might make a decision based on misunderstanding some facts.

Look at some of the features that Google Health offers. With it, you can do the following:

image Build online health profiles
You can enter your health conditions, medications, allergies, and lab results into your Google Health profile and you can name the profile anything you want. You can even create multiple profiles for family members or others you care for.
Import medical records from hospitals and pharmacies
Choose from a list of Google Health partners to see if your hospital or pharmacy can send copies of your medical records or prescriptions to your Google Health profile. This way, you can save an accurate history of your medical conditions, medications, and test results all in one place.
image Learn about health issues and find helpful resources
Review trusted information on diseases and conditions and learn about possible medication interactions and other topics to talk your doctors about.
image Search for doctors and hospitals
You can search for a doctor’s name or location, find a doctor’s website, get directions to a doctor’s office, and save a doctor’s information to your medical contacts list.
image Connect to online health services
Browse the online health services directory to find services that are integrated with Google Health that can help you better manage your health needs.

I guess if some of these privacy concerns could be shelved, this is a great tool to bring all of your medical information in once place. It gives you the opportunity to import your medical records if your medical facilities are participating in the program (which by the way, it is free for them as well to participate). You can look for doctors, look up symptoms or medical conditions, list allergies or medicine you are taking to find out if any conflict with each other.

Google Health

You have the ability to list your conditions, medications, allergies, procedures and test results. After that, click the Reference links to read about symptoms, causes, and treatments. You can even create additional profiles for your kids, your parents, or anyone you care about.

Google has tried to ease up privacy concerns saying they will “never sell your personal health information” and they have been over the years but something about these two questions in their Frequently Asked Questions bothers me a little.

6. If it’s free, how does Google make money off Google Health?

Much like other Google products we offer, Google Health is free to anyone who uses it. There are no ads in Google Health. Our primary focus is providing a good user experience and meeting our users’ needs.

7. How does Google Health protect the privacy of my health information?

You should know two main things up front:

  1. We will never sell your personal health information or data
  2. We will not share your health data with individuals or third parties unless you explicitly tell us to do so or except in certain limited circumstances described in our privacy policy.

Google has made tons of money through their sponsored links and text based advertising in emails and other cleverly designed marketing strategies, so I find it hard to believe that they are just doing this to “provide a good user experience and meeting (their) needs”. They do however give you the option to save your doctor’s contact information but explicitly state that “no personal or medical information in your Google Health profile is used to customize your search results or for advertising.”

Maybe if my medical records really get all jumbled around, I might give this a try someday but as of 11:44 AM on July 9th in the year 2008, I will applaud Google for their great work but refuse to this application… for now.

If anyone reading this is currently using this or plans to use this now, let me know what you think of it.

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