Google Health

Google Health is now on-line. It looks pretty interesting. Basically, it is a way of keeping your health records something, I must admit, that is non-existent in our household. There are of course privacy implications but no more than what you provide to your doctor. But there is real potential for systematic data gathering that could actually help medical research. That makes it an activity with a positive externality that may be worthwhile getting government assistance.

4 thoughts on “Google Health”

  1. I’d have to strongly disagree with your statement that there’s no extra privacy implications.

    If your doctor gets broken into, maybe a few hundred medical records get stolen. If Google Health gets hacked, millions of health records get stolen.

    Furthermore, because it’s all electronic, it’s in a much more easily searchable form.

    Here’s a for-instance. Say you’re an intelligence agency, looking for somebody in a large organization to blackmail. With the old system, there’s no way in the world you could burgle every doctor every member in that organization has visited.

    Now, let’s rerun our hypothetical with everybody’s medical records on Google Health. Your crack team of hackers breaks in and gets you full access. You do a search for STDs, abortions, mental illnesses, etc. etc. etc on the entire organization, until you find somebody to blackmail.

    And, yes, in this case it is entirely plausible to imagine such a technically-adept attacker as an intelligence agency.

    Back when I was in the CS department at Melbourne, there were some people doing work on computer security. You might want to consider having a chat to some of them at some point. You may never use internet banking again…


  2. Actually, my first reaction to Google Health was “Why didn’t I think of that!”

    Completely agree with the positive externality aspect but I think it’s going to be tricky getting the marginal user to adopt its usage.

    I guess if I put on my ‘potential user shoes’, I don’t really see a benefit of tracking my own health.

    Three reasons I can think of why Google Health wouldn’t be useful to me.

    1) I don’t see the doctor very often. In fact, this is also partly due to the wealth of information searchable via Google. If I get a sore throat, the self-diagnostic collective out there lets me know if it’s a viral or bacterial infection (by the colour of the phlegm) and thus whether I need antibacterial throat drops, or to just rough it out with chicken soup to boost my immune system.

    2) When I do see the doctor, I’ve usually already reached a stage where I know what’s wrong with me but I just want to be sure I’m not getting any worse, or I need a medical certificate to validate my ‘sickie’. Then it’s really more an economical / availability argument. Which doctor bulk bills, is nearest, and most available when I need it.

    3) After I see the doctor, I don’t get a full detailed report of what went wrong. In bad cases, I’d get an ‘next appointment’ card and a prescription as ‘outputs’ to the visit. Would my doctor or I bother entering (or recording) such relatively useless details ?

    If we use these same factors to extrapolate who would be beneficiaries from google health, I’d think they would be those who see an MD relatively often, have complex issues (requiring different specialists) and visit specialists who have systems which capture the information painlessly (excuse the pun)

    And we haven’t even gotten anywhere NEAR privacy issues…


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