Google Health Update: A missed opportunity

By Brian Dolan
06:29 am

Google HealthWhen I saw the headlines about Google Health's update today, I had high hopes that one of those bullet points would describe the PHR's new mobile strategy. My initial surprise, however, wore thin by the time I read through the official announcement over at Google's blog. They have a new mobile strategy: Print out your Google Health account information and keep a copy of it in your wallet. Think I'm kidding? Read for yourself

I sympathize, really. Industry pundits seem loathe to curb their enthusiasm over the potential privacy issues that may arise from hosting such sensitive information online. It's a safe bet that a true, mobile version of Google Health would do little to calm those naysayers. Within that context Google's most recent update is a step in the right direction.

Now physicians, friends, family or other caregivers can attain temporary access to a person's Google Health record via the new "Share this Profile" functionality. The temporary log-in is sent to the new user's email but only works for 30 days. That solution makes sense for a healthcare system centered on episodic care, but I thought we were trying to move away from episodic care toward chronic care. Right?

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As others have noted, the 30 day limit makes the functionality useless for emergency cases--unless, of course, the user diligently resends the invite every 30 days or figures out they may be in need of emergency care in the coming month. Neither scenario seems likely. Neither is user-friendly. It is a start, though.

I wonder why Google feels more comfortable suggesting that Google Health users print out their information to keep in their wallet than enabling them to access and/or store that information on their mobile phone. Why not print out a one-time log-in for emergencies instead? That way the information is up-to-date and not only as accurate as the last printing. 

If it's security they're worried about, then the chances of losing a folded up piece of paper vs. losing a (far more precious) mobile phone should give them pause. One step forward for PHRs, two steps back toward the printing press.

For more, read Dana Blakenhorn's observations over at ZDNet and check out Matthew Holt's take over at The Health Care Blog.

Also, John Moore over at Chilmark Research has extensive analysis on the updates for Google Health. He's disappointed, too.

UPDATE: TechCrunch sheds some light on the 30 day rule. Turns out that the INVITATION to connect to a person's Google Health account is only good for 30 days, but once connected the user can continue to view that person's profile until the user decides to disconnect them. This is, obviously, a much better arrangement.

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