Trendlines from 5/01/08: New, Hot, Unexpected

In this issue: Google and privacy; The wait for EMR; Online litter; Security and virtualization; CIOs seek smaller companies; and Fan-cooled PCs.

Google Gears Up Privacy Push

Google is working with other companies to push consumer privacy legislation in the U.S. Congress and will work with the Federal Trade Commission to fine-tune online advertising principles that the agency proposed in December, say the company's top privacy executives.

Google is also reaching out to privacy advocates in an effort to allay concerns about its acquisition of online advertising vendor DoubleClick, company officials say.

Google has focused on three key principles: transparency of privacy policies, security of data and user choice, and control over data use, says Nicole Wong, Google's deputy general counsel. "People don't like binary choices about how to use data. They want to be [online] on their own terms."

In March, Google hosted a meeting of the Consumer Privacy Legislative Forum, a group of companies focused on getting a consumer privacy bill passed by Congress. The group doesn't expect legislation to pass this year but is working toward consensus on privacy issues. Google also plans to file formal comments about the FTC's proposed privacy principles for online behavioral advertising, says Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel. Google supports the FTC, Fleischer says, but it will raise some questions.

For example, the FTC has asked for comments on what constitutes "sensitive data" and whether it should prohibit its use. An anonymous search on Google for healthcare providers that treat AIDS may be sensitive, but it's not personally identifiable, says Fleischer. In most cases, IP (Internet Protocol) addresses are not personally identifiable—websites cannot connect IP addresses to individuals in most cases.

The debate over personally identifiable information is the "hardest question" in privacy, Fleischer says. "There's a gray area, and that's what we're struggling with," he says. Asked if Google's DoubleClick acquisition threatens people's privacy, he says one issue was lost in the debate: DoubleClick doesn't collect personally identifiable information when it serves ads.

Privacy groups unsuccessfully pushed the FTC to reject the DoubleClick deal, saying the combined company would hold massive amounts of personal data. Privacy advocate Jeff Chester, executive director of Center for Digital Democracy, met with Google in March. He praised Google for having "thoughtful" employees willing to discuss the issues but said it doesn't seem to understand the privacy concerns that are part of the DoubleClick deal.

-Grant Gross

Diagnosis: EMR Implementation Lags

While electronic medical records (EMRs) have gained ground in recent years with physicians and patients, implementation of these systems still lags, according to a survey of the members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). More than 120 CIOs took part. The survey found that although 80 percent of respondents said their organization strongly encouraged or mandated electronic physician documentation for inpatient care, only 18 percent had implemented the technology. Of those who did, 55 percent reported that less than half of their inpatient physician documentations were completed electronically.

Forty-two percent of respondents said their preferred documentation process was a set of structured inputs—a paper list of symptoms, for example—using forms in templates. Other processes included the use of structured technology and transcribed dictation (29 percent) and mainly free text entered by the physician (17 percent), along with "other methods," including templates with voice recognition, structured input using forms with dictation and a mix of free and structured text.

Fixed workstations with laptops and computers on wheels were the main tools used to capture patient information. Exactly half of the respondents who use technology to capture this data employ voice recognition software; 8 percent used handwriting recognition software. CHIME members also offered suggestions for a successful EMR implementation. These included keeping physicians involved in the development of the tools, the need to phase in an implementation versus just flipping a switch and ample training time for users.

-Jarina D'Auria

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