Google Reveals Plans for Personal Health Record Platform

Google is likely headed for the same challenges faced by Microsoft today.

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Less than two weeks after Microsoft launched HealthVault, its online personal health information record platform, Google announced plans to develop a similar product.

The plans were announced at this week's Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco by Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products and user experience. "Google is not a doctor," she said, "but people come to us with a lot of health information searches," noting that company engineers had noticed many searches around hard-to-diagnose health problems.

The company announced plans to develop tools that will give users control over privacy and distribution of the collected health information. Mayer also said that her vision includes a password-protected keychain-sized digital storage dongle in which users could carry their medical information with them anywhere in the world, according to Reuters.

Developers of electronic health information records face a number of obstacles, particularly in the consumer space, around privacy issues and lack of consumer and healthcare provider buy-in.

Only 11 percent of Americans currently use a personal health record to keep track of their medical and health history, according to a survey conducted by research consultancy Ipsos Mori for Aetna healthcare and the Financial Planning Association. The survey polled 2,100 adults 18 and older and found that 64 percent of respondents said they do not know or are unsure about what a personal health record is. A similar study conducted by IDC's Health Industry Insights found that 83 percent of 1,095 consumers surveyed have never used personal health records in either electronic or paper form. (IDC shares a parent company with CXO Media, CIO.com's publisher.)

Even those who are aware of personal health records, have another issue: privacy. In a 2006 survey of 1,003 Americans by the Markle Foundation on personal health records, 80 percent of respondents said they are very concerned about identify theft or fraud and 77 percent are concerned about the possibility of their information getting into the hands of marketers.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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