Google and the Cleveland Clinic have entered into an agreement to start a pilot program whereby Google will store patient medical records online. The experimental program will allow 1,500 to 10,000 of the Cleveland’s Clinics patients to have certain of their records stored in a password-protected file. Initially, the records will include prescriptions, allergies and laboratory results.
The patients themselves as well as their doctors would be able to access the files by going on to the internet and providing the required codes. The hope is that patients, having easy access to their medical records would easily be able to change doctors and that their treating physicians could access tests performed by other doctors who are participating in the patient’s care.
Dr. C. Martin Davis, a Cleveland Clinic spokesman said, “What we are trying to do is exchange information between isolated medical systems, and when do that the patient gets the benefit.” He said that the patient would control what information goes to whom and when it goes. This type of system wold allow patients access to their own records to facilitate their reviewing them, ask questions and provide them to other sources.
We constantly hear about identity theft and computer hackers getting into other people’s computers. There is even a science fiction movie, I believe entitled “War Games” which tells a story of some kids hacking into a national defense computer to play a simulation war game. Their computer activities nearly bring on a real nuclear war. Although science fiction, this type of scenario is not unconceivable.
Google claims that it is capable of securing the records. It also says it will not add advertisements to the medical records and will not sell or use the information for any commercial purpose.
That is fine and dandy, but what is to stop Google from “changing its mind”? Your hospital and doctors are restricted from disclosing any of your medical information by federal regulations. Google is not subject to these restrictions. Once the information is sent to Google there are no legal restraints to Google selling or just giving out personal medical information.
It is just a bad idea.
Joel T Nowak MA, MSW
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