Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Personal Health Records Promoted, Pt. II

The U.S. Government and specialized technology vendors are not the only ones interested in creating personal health care records for consumers. Technology giants are too.

As evidenced in yesterday's PA EE&F Law Blog posting "Personal Health Records Promoted, Pt. I", the government's efforts, through the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, to institute uniform health information technology, have been accelerating from beginnings in this decade, until now. For example, see: "HHS Awards Contracts to Develop Nationwide Health Information Network" (11/10/05), and "HHS awards $22.5M in contracts to health info exchanges" (10/20/07).

In 2008, major technology vendors expanded the market, seeking involvement with your personal health records.

On February 18, 2008, Reuters reported "Google unveils personal medical record service":

Google Inc. has unveiled a plan to help U.S. patients gain control of their medical records and is working with doctors' groups, pharmacies and labs to help them securely share sensitive health data. Google said it has signed deals with hospitals and companies including medical tester Quest Diagnostics Inc, health insurer Aetna Inc, Walgreens and Walmart Stores Inc pharmacies.

The password-protected Web service stores health records on Google computers, with a medical services directory that lets users import doctors' records, drug history and test results.
Google aims to foster sharing of information between these services, but keep control in patients' hands, allowing them to schedule appointments or refill prescriptions, for example. * * *
Google Health is described on its website, and also in a blog posting "Google Health, a first look" (02/28/08) by Marissa Mayer, who noted:
Google Health aims to solve an urgent need that dovetails with our overall mission of organizing patient information and making it accessible and useful.

Through our health offering, our users will be empowered to collect, store, and manage their own medical records online. * * *
Microsoft Corporation, with its HealthVault service introduced in 2007 and significantly upgraded in 2008, also focuses on personal health records.
Microsoft® HealthVault™ is designed to put you in control of your health information.

A free HealthVault account helps you collect, store and share information with family members and gives you a choice of applications and devices to help manage your fitness, diet and health.
However, according to "Microsoft HealthVault is nothing like Google Health" (02/26/08) by Dana Blankenhorn, posted on ZDNet, "Microsoft HealthVault is a platform for sharing medical data [and] Google Health could, if it chose, become a HealthVault application."

For examples of organizations working with Microsoft on compatible services, see: Press Release, "New Microsoft HealthVault Applications and Devices Unveiled" (06/10/08), which announced "[m]ore than 40 new HealthVault-enabled applications and devices introduced to improve patient-doctor data sharing, fitness, wellness and family health management."

For the past two decades, small software vendors advocated entry of personal health records into your personal computer or personal digital assistant, and offered stand-alone products.
See: "Choosing Family Health Records Software".

Such private databases did not present the significant issues arising due to transportable, shared, but private, medical records, as expansively reviewed in "Biomedical Informatics: Social Issues" posted by the University of Arizona:
Biomedical Informatics have evolved through time and have always carried with them social, privacy, and security issues.

The notion of privacy is not a new concept and is the core of the patient-physican relationship. Ethics and biopiracy have become hot topics especially since IT has given users more tools and flexibility to work-around the system.

Other considerations such as costs, affordability, and accessibility to biomedical informatics applications must be examined. Web 2.0 technologies are favoring the use of online communities for support group purposes.

Despite all the advances biomedical informatics are experiencing, consumers and patients are still concerned with the privacy of their biomedical data; those that are most concerned are minorities or patients with terminal illnesses. * * *
Nevertheless, another technological revolution, powered by economics and politics, is underway. I think it likely that, in ten years, the way we access our personal health records will more resemble online banking, than the present papers in a medical chart.