France 24 discusses the latest Google venture into additional online services under the item, Google Health takes on HealthVault. The service, and the issues, both merit a careful look.
Among the issues associated with Internet-accessible health records and publicly-stored health records, security and privacy are the most widely discussed reasons to shun Google’s service.
- If I trust my health information to Google Health, can I be certain that nobody will hack my record and change it?
- Can I be certain that nobody will snoop through my medical records without my express permission -- regardless of whether that person is a researcher looking to find the average number of drugs a T2 diabetic takes each year, or Big Pharma trying to sell me on the merits of the latest I-didn't-realize-I-had-this-wrong-with-me-but-need-Big-Pharma-to-correct-it gimmick?
- Will an employer, or an insurance agency, find a way to snoop through my records and decide that my health issues make me "uninsurable" (and therefore potentially "unemployable")?
Easy accessibility by an individual’s healthcare providers, and the use of large-scale, eventually-longitudinal data for public health trend analysis are two of the more widely discussed reasons for providing the service and enticing patients to use it.
- If my doctor can read my medication profile and health journal on-line, I don't have to bring yards of printouts to an office visit.
- If I am in an accident, a smart-card or USB key with my site login information can provide complete health, insurance, and provider information to the Emergency Room to which I am taken.
- And we all keep at it for ten, twenty years, maybe we'll find out what the true long-term side-effects of metformin, glipazide, or analog insulin might be.
While I concede the public health benefits, I am for the moment on the side of the skeptics. At least as far as Google Health is concerned.
Looking at Diabetes Connect on its own, it is a community that has aspects of dLife (news and information, discussion fora, no blog function) and the Ning diabetes communities (discussion fora, friends, private messaging between friends), and aspects that are not highlighted by any of those groups (user reviews, book reviews, etc.). It is a more technically-oriented community than either dLife or the Ning diabetes-related social networks, which is fine in itself. I found the site through the site-owner’s (Amy Tenderlich’s) blog
The interesting thing is, if you check up Alliance Health, its goal, its mission, its raison d’être is to find audiences for medical providers and Big Pharma to shill to. Sign up for a diabetes website, and you’re asked if you have any of the usual comorbid conditions (neuropathy, hypertension, sleep disorders, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disorders, GERD, etc.)… with the idea of being able to target you for more medical goods and services.
Additionally, I have been proactive in signing up with my medical insurance providers’ online presences. The sites are secure, my information is restricted to the insurance agency, and with that information my insurers can provide me with a wider range of services that better suit my needs.
While I am fairly careful to minimize the connections between my online d-life and the rest of my online life (not to mention, the rest of my “real” life!), much of it can still be connected in three links or less. With all the data mining, identity theft, governmental interference, and overall fearmongering going on, I’m not sure I shouldn’t be worrying about the potential repercussions of keeping that tight a series of connections. But for now, they are – and so far, I’ve not much issues with that. But as far as Google Health is concerned… for now, at least, I’m not comfortable taking that risk.