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Google launches online personal health records project

Pilot to test exchange of patient data between its health offering and the Cleveland Clinic

By Heather Havenstein
February 21, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Google Inc. is venturing into the online personal health records business with a pilot project set to be unveiled today that will test the exchange of patient data between the Cleveland Clinic and Google technology.

Google, which in October announced plans to tap into the online health records market, and the Cleveland Clinic are collaborating in an effort to enroll between 1,500 and 10,000 patients in the pilot project.

The Cleveland-based health care provider said that the effort aims to move patient data, such as prescription history, medical condition information and allergy data between the clinic's personal health records system and a patient's Google medical profile.

If the pilot is successful, the clinic hopes to extend its online patient services, now used by 100,000 patients, to a broader audience by allowing them to access their data online and take it with them if they receive care outside the clinic's health system.

Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google, said the vendor chose the clinic as an early partner in its health technology project because the clinic already gives its patients online tools to help them manage their medical records and coordinate care with their doctors.

Mayer said in October, when Google first began laying out its plan for online records, that the company became interested in entering the personal health records (PHR) business when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and countless paper-based medical records were lost in the aftermath of the storm.

The integration between the two systems is aimed at providing patients with national online access to their own records so they can have more control over their medical care, according to the clinic. In addition, backers of PHRs have long touted the benefits of providing patient access to their information to eliminate the need for health care providers to duplicate laboratory test results or X-rays.

Some PHRs are even used to push reminders to patients — like an alert that they need a mammogram or a test based on their specific disease. This allows a PHR to become a cornerstone of preventative care, according to proponents of PHRs.

"Patients are more proactively managing their own health care information," said C. Martin Harris, M.D., CIO at The Cleveland Clinic, in a statement. "Utilizing Cleveland Clinic's PHR expertise, this collaboration is intended to help Google test features and services that will ultimately allow all Americans (as patients) to direct the exchange of their medical information between their various providers without compromising their privacy."

The same month Google unveiled its plans for a PHR, Microsoft announced its own online health service called Health Vault to allow patients to store medical information online and search for medical data.

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