Google and Microsoft Battle Over Your Health

Microsoft50 Google and Microsoft Battle Over Your Health
Paul Fezziwig asked:

Online patient medical records are taking off after Google recently released ‘Google Health’ and Microsoft a few months earlier released ‘HealthVault’

Online medical records will allow patients to access their complete medical records (have you ever wondered what’s in your paper file, now you’ll know) wherever they go. With most people moving many times in a life time and seeing many different doctors this will lead to more informed and better healthcare decision making as their complete records follow them wherever they go.

Normally when people move they usually just start a new file with their new doctor, leaving their medical history behind. When they also see different specialists these doctors will likely not see the patients complete medical history and just base decisions on the current diagnosis, including emergency situations. Now these doctors will have a lifetime of medical history at their fingertips instantly.

This also cuts down on a great deal of administration expenses and delays which may be reflected in lower healthcare insurance premiums if implemented.

The technology has been available for years to make this a reality for everyone, it will improve patient healthcare decisions and cut down on administration expenses. So why haven’t we put everyone’s medical history online previously?

For starters, current healthcare records are primarily on massive amounts of paper, about 14% is currently stored on a computer in the USA. Transferring the mountains of medical records to a digital format is no small task and could induce more than a few cases of carpal tunnel syndrome typing all that data in. Most other industrialized countries have 50-90% of their records currently stored on a computer.

So why has the USA been so slow to put medical records on a computer?

In the USA hospitals are really business’s, and they don’t want to share information with their competition. Why should they help a patient/customer go see another doctor at another hospital? So they will drag their feet as long as possible.

Despite this Google and Microsoft are convincing organization and many people to volunteer and join their programs. These eager volunteers may be in for a bit of a surprise down the road.

Medical record privacy laws were written 12 years ago and addressed doctors, pharmacists and patients (HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). There are no references to anything that may cover Google and Microsoft. In other words you will need to trust these large multibillion dollar corporations to look out for your best interests. Most of you are probably having a good chuckle after that last sentence.

Why should you care if Google or Microsoft sells or grants access to your medical records to the highest bidders?

Those bidders will be insurance companies and it would be pure gold to them. They could raise premiums or even deny you health insurance based on the slightest medical problems you have, and if you have a ‘suspicious’ gene it gets worse. Now you can adversely affect your children and relatives seeking medical insurance as they may be deemed carriers of this questionable genetic trait because of their relation to you.

Then employers will be bidding on those precious records. Perhaps they will conclude you are likely going to cost them a lot of medical expenses, therefore you can forget about a promotion or if you are applying for a job you’re out of luck.

These online medical records have the potential for great benefits but until legislation to protect patients catches up with the technology those early volunteers signing up are in for a big surprise down the road, after all, Google and Microsoft are interested in the health of their bottom line, not your medical health.

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