Google will begin storing the medical records of a few thousand
people as it tests a long-awaited health service that's likely to
raise more concerns about the volume of sensitive information
entrusted to the Internet search leader.
The pilot project announced yesterday will involve 1,500 to
10,000 patients at the Cleveland Clinic who volunteered to an
electronic transfer of their personal health records so they can be
retrieved through Google's new service, which won't be open to the
Each health profile, including information about prescriptions,
allergies and medical histories, will be protected by a password
that's also required to use other Google services such as e-mail
and personalized search tools.
Google views its expansion into health records management as a
logical extension because its search engine already processes
millions of requests from people trying to find about more
information about an injury, illness or recommended treatment.
But the health venture also will provide more fodder for privacy
watchdogs who believe Google already knows too much about the
interests and habits of its users as its computers log their search
requests and store their e-mail discussions.
Prodded by the criticism, Google last year introduced a new
system that purges people's search records after 18 months. In a
show of its privacy commitment, Google also successfully rebuffed
the US Justice Department's demand to examine millions of its
users' search requests in a court battle two years ago.
The Mountain View-based company hasn't specified a timetable for
unveiling the health service, which has been the source of much
speculation for the past two years. Marissa Mayer, the Google
executive overseeing the health project, has previously said the
service would debut in 2008.
Contacted on Wednesday, a Google spokesman declined to elaborate
on its plans. The Associated Press learned about the pilot project
from the Cleveland Clinic, a not-for-profit medical center founded
87 years ago.
The clinic already keeps the personal health records of more
than 120,000 patients on its own online service called MyChart.
Patients who transfer the information to Google would still be able
to get the data quickly even if they were no longer being treated
by the Cleveland Clinic.
"We believe patients should be able to easily access and manage
their own health information," Mayer said in a statement supplied
by the Cleveland Clinic.
The Cleveland Clinic decided to work with Google "to create a
more efficient and effective national health care system," said C
Martin Harris, the medical center's chief information officer.
(Agencies via China Daily February 22, 2008)