Would you put your life in Google's
The Big G is getting its Google Health initiative up to speed, and hopes that you might actually want to place your trust in a faceless search engine from California. There's big money at play here.
It's not quite as frightening as piping your browsing history into one of those Intuitive Surgical
The pilot program -- in Utah and Arizona -- pulls in Medicare claims data on your request. A few doctors already update your Google Health history for you if you ask very nicely. Lab services like Quest Diagnostics
But a nationwide rollout of the Medicare partnership would be a major boost for Google's health information project. 44 million Medicare beneficiaries would get the option to manage their health information in a one-stop online shop. You can allow family members and health-care providers to read parts of your history, with password protection. The obvious privacy problems seem to be well in hand, thanks to fine-grained control over who can see or update what information.
I like the idea of having universal access to my health records, in case I ever step on a rusty nail in Guatemala or need to show a Swedish specialist why I need him. I want both Google and Microsoft to win, and then perhaps set their differences aside to interchange information with each other -- at the patient's request, of course. The Baby Boomer generation couldn't have picked a better time to approach their golden years, because health records management is moving into a new and better era.
Both HealthVault and Google Heath are free to the public and advertising-free. That may change once their user communities reach critical mass, so that Microsoft and Google can make some money here. Until then, it's a race to gather as many users as possible in a blissfully uncommercial embrace.