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Wednesday, May 21, 2008


The day has finally arrived. On Monday, Google launched its personal health records (PHRs) information service, which combines their search capabilities with consumers’ personal health records online, according to a Reuters’ article on MSNBC. Microsoft also recently introduced its own version, HealthVault. Google will warehouse participants’ basic medical history, and will collect additional data relating to their condition. There will be links to doctors including their specialties, U.S. pharmacies, medical testing labs, and doctors’ groups. There will be a “virtual pillbox” for notification to take prescriptions, and there will be a warning for potential drug reactions. Users can schedule appointments with their caregiver, refill medications, and get diagnostic results online.

It’s all wrapped up in a neat package, but Reuters says “while medical providers are covered by U.S. privacy laws, there is little in the way of established privacy, security and data usage standards for electronic personal health records despite decades of industry effort.” However, in yesterday’s post Jay Cline reported in Computerworld, “free-standing PHRs are subject to consumer-protection laws that prohibit false statements and impose security requirements.”

Confused? Go to My PHR, a site sponsored by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), scroll down to “Access and Privacy Laws.” Click on the sixth question. Here’s the Google Health site. And I haven’t overlooked Microsoft; did two posts on them in October of 2007 here and here.

There are other players. Dossia Founders Group consortium of large employers providing independent, lifelong health records for employees, their dependents, retirees and others. This is another database of health records where participation is voluntary, but the individuals do have complete control over who sees the information. Next, WebMD Health Record, the forth database of health information we’ve covered, available free, which works in coordination with WebMD Health Manager.

Finally, and the fifth database to be introduced in the market so far, Revolution Health, run by former AOL CEO Steve Case, with notable board directors like former secretary of state, Colin Powell, and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Fiorina was leaving HP at about the time the company was embroiled in the pretexting controversy involving the illicit collecting of board member telephone records in an investigation over who leaked confidential company information.

So we have now arrived at the number of at least five personal health record databases being created where personal data will be housed along with our private health information. Two companies, Microsoft and Google, are at least capable of, if not already at some level of encryption of their data. The other three I am not sure about. If ever there was the need for safe encryption, it is certainly demanded in a depository of the ultimate in personal sensitive data

However, what is missing in this new technology is major control over its security, and the promise that it won’t become a marketable commodity like the junk mail industry’s mailing list business which already chronicles our lives in databases and sells it on the open market in the amount of over $4 billion each year. The question, of course, is will we get that promise, and from whom?


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your three-part analysis Jack! And I agree - the private companies are filling the void left by slow government action. But that's what makes America still great, right? We should be thankful Google and Microsoft aren't based in Paris or Bonn.

Jay Cline

The Dunning Letter said...

Thanks for your comment, Jay. And I'm all for the free-enterprise system, but I do want business to respect and secure my sensitive data. Unfortunately, I am not convinced that is the case. Appreciate your feedback!


Scott Smith said...

I read with great interest your blog about Patient Health Records (PHRs). (MMR) is an advanced PHR and an Integrated Service Provider on Google Health.

Using MMR, complete patient records can be easily faxed, voiced, or uploaded into a password-secured, web-based account. An emergency log-in feature also allows access to your critical medical information in the event of an emergency, and it has a drug interaction database for prescriptions, as well as many other features.

Perhaps you and your readers would like to test drive MMR by signing up for 30 days free using the promotion code TRYMMR.
Scott Smith
Director of Public Relations
10100 Santa Monica Blvd #430
Los Angeles CA 90069
888-808-4667 ext. 123

The Dunning Letter said...

Hi Scott...

Thanks for your comments and I checked out the MMR site. Your level of security is impressive. In my three years of blogging on the privacy of our sensitive data, I have not seen any better control. Not sure I've even seen an equal. Readers should feel comfortable taking advantage of your FREE 30-day offer. We need more companies like MMR.


Jack E. Dunning
The Dunning Letter