A new and perhaps bold project launched by Google this week was Google Health, an online personal health record service.
This new venture has raised privacy concerns as it will contain confidential medical information of the general public, including test results and prescriptions.
It will allow users to manage their own records, with access via a user name and password, similar to a Google e-mail account.
Google hopes that the new service will help both doctors and the increasing number of patients who use the Internet for their own medical research. “There are 6 billion people who would benefit from the system. Only 1.5 billion or so are online.” CEO Eric Schmidt has said. “A reasonable goal will be that every single person who has access to the Internet would consider having a personal health record.”
In a Google Blog post, Vice President of Search & User Products Marissa Mayer wrote what they believe sets Google Health apart from other similar services:
Platform - We’re assembling a directory of third-party services that interoperate with Google Health. Right now, this means you’ll be able to automatically import information such as your doctors’ records, your prescription history, and your test results into Google Health in order to easily access and control your data.
Portability – Our Internet presence ultimately means that through Google Health, you will be able to have access and control over your health data from anywhere. With Google Health, the user can simply import the data from each medical facility and then choose to share it with the other facilities. It’s advances in data portability like this that we think can really make a difference in the quality of healthcare.
User focus – We aren’t doctors or healthcare experts, but one thing Google can create is a clean, easy-to-use user experience that makes managing your health information straightforward and easy.
On an interesting note, Schmidt has said that they will not be including advertising within this new service. However, they intend to profit by increasing traffic to its search site – the same approach it used with the ad-free Google News section.
The issue that arises here is trust. In order for this service to be successful, Google needs to earn the trust of the general public, so that they actually have medical records to store on the system. The question is will Google get enough people to believe that they will store their personal medical records in a safe manner? I guess only time will tell.