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Two Primary Obstacles to PHR Adoption per Epic

Posted on May 11, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I recently happened upon the interoperability page on Epic’s website. Yes, I realize the irony of Epic and interoperability in the same sentence. In fact, that’s why I was so intrigued by what Epic had on their website about interoperability.

I’ll leave what they called the “physician-guided” interoperability using their Care Everywhere product for another post. In this post I just want to highlight their “freestanding Personal Health Record (PHR)” section. I was most intrigued by what Epic lists on that page as the “two primary obstacles to patient PHR adoption”:

Lucy [Epic’s PHR] is free of the two primary obstacles to patient PHR adoption:
1. There are no advertisements on Lucy.
2. Epic will not sell patient data for secondary uses.

I find this really intriguing. Let’s look at each one individually.

First, I can’t say I’ve ever heard someone say that the reason they aren’t using an EHR is because of the advertisements. I’m sure there are a few out there that wouldn’t enjoy the ads and might not use a PHR because of them, but I believe they are few and far between. Plus, PHR use has been so low that most haven’t used a PHR enough to have seen ads. So, that’s not an obstacle. Not to mention, what PHR software has ads there now? As best to my knowledge Microsoft HealthVault, NoMoreClipboard and even the now defunct Google Health have never shown ads before.

Now to the second point about selling patient data for secondary uses. This could potentially be a bigger issue. There’s little doubt that there’s value in aggregate health data. A PHR is a legitimate way to collect that aggregate health data. Some certainly have some fear of their individualized health data being learned and so they don’t want to input their health data into a PHR. However, I believe there’s a larger majority that don’t care about this all that much. Sure, they want to make sure that the PHR uses proper security in their system. They also don’t want their individual data sold, but I expect a large user base doesn’t really care if aggregate healthcare data is sold in order for them to get a product that provides value to them.

In fact, this highlights the real problem with PHR software generally. To date, the PHR has offered little value to the patient. This is the primary obstacle to patient PHR adoption. I’ve hypothesized previously a couple things that could change that patient value equation: physician interaction in the PHR and paper work completion.

The real problem with PHR software is providing the patient value, not ads or sold patient data.

PHR Options for Meeting Meaningful Use Stage 2

Posted on March 29, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

An EHR vendor recently asked me for some suggestions of PHR or portal options that they could use with their EHR software. Turns out that this is going to be particularly important given the changes in meaningful use stage 2 that require you to not only share medical information with the patient, but the patients have to actually access that information as well (unless that gets taken out in the MU stage 2 rule making process). Regardless, the question of which PHR and/or patient portal solutions was an interesting question. Here’s my answer to him (with a little bit added):

I only know of a few and you’ve probably heard of the ones I know about. I’m also not sure of the price of the various options really [He wanted to know of an inexpensive option]. Here’s what I know:

I like what NoMoreClipboard has done and that they’ve been doing it a really long time. They have a good understanding of how to work with many different vendors and also sizes of practices or healthcare institutions. Plus, you can be sure they’re going to be on top of all the meaningful use stage 2 requirements you’ll need to meet.

I also know that Medical Web Experts was working hard on a patient portal. I’m not sure how far it’s come since I first talked to them though. It might be one worth checking out. Just be sure that they can meet the meaningful use stage 2 requirements.

Then, of course you have Microsoft HealthVault. Everyone seems to know about them. I’ve heard that they’re a bit of a challenge to integrate with. Hopefully they also don’t have the same fate as Google Health. Although, Microsoft has a much better position in healthcare than Google ever did.

Coincidentally, I also was just emailed about a brand new book just released by O’Reilly Media about HealthVault and how to integrate with it. It’s called Enabling Programmable Self with HealthVault: An Accessible Personal Health Record. I’ve heard it’s a pretty technical book that would be quite useful if you decided to go with Healthvault for your PHR.

What other PHR and/or patient portal options are out there? I’m sure there are more that I’m missing and have probably just forgotten about them.

I’ll be interested to see if meaningful use stage 2 will drive the return of the PHR.

Full Disclosure: NoMoreClipboard is an advertiser on this site.

9 Ways IT is Transforming Healthcare – “Top 10” Health IT List Series

Posted on December 27, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As is often common at the end of the year, a lot of companies have started putting together their “Top 10” (or some similar number) lists for 2011. In fact, some of them have posted these lists a little bit earlier than usual. This week as people are often off work or on vacation, I thought it might be fun to take one list each day and comment on the various items people have on their lists.

The first list comes from Booz Allen Hamilton and is Booz Allen’s Top 9 ways IT is Transforming healthcare. Here’s their list of 9 items with my own commentary after each item.

Reduces medical errors. I prefer to say that Health IT has the potential to reduce medical errors. I also think long term that health IT and EMR will reduce medical errors. However, in the interim it will depend on how people actually use these systems. Used improperly, it can actually cause more medical errors. There have been studies out that show both an improvement in medical errors and an increase in medical errors.

My take on this is that EMR and health IT improves certain areas and hurts other areas. However, as we improve these systems and use of these systems, then over all medical errors will go down. However, remember that even once these systems are perfect they’re still going to be run be imperfect humans that are just trying to do their best (at least most of them). Even so, long term health IT and EMR software will be something that will benefit healthcare as far as reducing medical errors.

Improves collaboration throughout the health care system. I’m a little torn as we consider whether health IT improves collaboration. The biggest argument you can make for this is that it’s really hard to be truly interoperable in really meaningful and quick ways without technology. Sure, we’ve been able to fax over medical records which no one would doubt has improved health care. However, those faxes often get their too late since they take time to process. Technology will be the solution to solving this problem.

The real conundrum here is the value that could be achieved by sending specific data. A fax is basically a mass of data which can’t be processed by a computer in any meaningful way. How much nicer would it be to have an allergy passed from one system to another. No request for information was made. No waiting for a response from a medical records department. Just a notification on the new doctor’s screen that the patient is allergic to something or is taking a drug that might have contraindications with the one the new doctor is trying to prescribe. This sort of seamless exchange of data is where we should and could be if it weren’t for data silos and economics.

Ensures better patient-care transition. This year there was a whole conference dedicated to this idea. No doubt there is merit in what’s possible. The problems here are similar to those mentioned above in the care collaboration section. Sadly, the technology is there and ready to be deployed. It’s connecting the bureaucratic and financial dots to make it a reality.

Enables faster, better emergency care. I’m not sure why, but the emergency room gets lots of interesting technology that no one else in healthcare gets. I imagine it’s because emergency rooms can easily argue that they’re a little bit “different” from the rest of the hospital and so they are able to often embark on neat technology projects without the weight of the whole hospital around their neck.

One of the technologies I love in emergency care is connecting the emergency rooms with the ambulances. There are so many cool options out there and with 3G finally coming into its own, connectivity isn’t nearly the problem that it use to be. Plus, there are even consumer apps like MyCrisisRecords that are trying to make an in road in emergency care. I’d like to see broader adoption of these apps in emergency rooms, but you can see the promise.

Empowers patients and their families to participate in care decisions. Many might argue that with Google Health Failing and Microsoft HealthVault not making much noise, that the idea of empowering patients might not be as strong. Turns out that the reality is quite the opposite.

Patients and families are participating more and more in care decisions. There just isn’t one dominant market leader that facilitates this interaction. Patients and families are using an amalgamation of technologies and the all powerful Google to participate in their care. This trend will continue to become more popular. We’ll see if any company can really capture the energy of this movement in a way that they become the dominant market leader or whether it will remain a really fluid environment.

Makes care more convenient for patients. I believe we’re starting to see the inklings of this happening. At the core of this for me is patient online scheduling and patient online visits. Maybe it could more simply be identified as: patient communication with providers.

I don’t think 2011 has been the watershed year for convenient access to doctors by patients. However, we’re starting to see inroads made which will open up the doors for the flood of patients that want to have these types of interactions.

Helps care for the warfighter. This is an area where I also don’t have a lot of experience. Although, I do remember one visit with someone from the Army at a conference. In that short chat we had, he talked about all the issues the Army had been dealing with for decades: patient record standards, patient identifiers, multiple locations (see Iraq and Afghanistan), multiple systems, etc. The problem he identified was that much of it was classified and so it couldn’t be shared. I hope health IT does help our warriors. It should!

Enhances ability to respond to public health emergencies and disasters. I’ve been to quite a few presentations where people have talked about the benefits and challenges associated with electronic medical records and natural disasters. They’ve always been really insightful since they almost always have 5-6 “I hadn’t thought of that” moments that make you realize that we’re not as secure and prepared for disasters as we think we are.

It is worth noting that moving 100,000 patient records electronically to an off site location is much easier in the electronic world than it is in paper. With paper charts we can’t even really discuss the idea of remote access to the record in the case of a natural disaster.

Possibly even more interesting is the idea of EMR and health IT supporting public health emergencies. We’re just beginning to aggregate health data from EMR software that could help us identify and mitigate the impact of a public health emergency. Certainly none of these systems are going to be perfect. Many of these systems are going to miss things we wish they’d seen. However, there’s real potential benefit in them helping is identify public health emergencies before they become catastrophes.

Enables discovery in new medical breakthroughs and provides a platform for innovation. Most of the medical breakthroughs we’ve experienced in the last 20 years would likely have been impossible without technology. Plus, I don’t think we’ve even started to tap the power that could be available from the mounds of healthcare data that we have available to us. This is why I’m so excited about the Health.Data.Gov health data sharing program that Priya wrote about on EMR and EHR. There’s so many more medical discoveries that will be facilitated by healthcare data.

There you have it. What do you think of these 9 items? Are there other things that you see happening that will impact the above items? Are there trends that we should be watching in health IT in 2012?

Be sure to read the rest of my Health IT Top 10 as they’re posted.

What Will Happen to Google Health Data After 2012?

Posted on July 21, 2011 I Written By

Let’s face it, I haven’t actually been nice to Google of late when it comes to healthcare (or maybe I have, just once). While I believe the criticisms are justified, I can see why some people might think I’m beating a dead horse, namely Google Health. But there are some unresolved questions in the area of privacy that Google really should answer.

Google’s ill-fated attempt at a PHR isn’t completely dead. The company won’t “retire” the online service until January, and will allow users to download their data through Jan. 1, 2013. Naturally, others have stepped up to try to fill the (tiny) void left by Google Health’s demise. To nobody’s surprise, Microsoft is helping the remarkably small number of Google Health users transition their accounts to HealthVault, Microsoft’s own overly hyped, underutilized PHR platform.

What concerns me is what will happen to data already on Google’s servers. Will records be archived? Will sensitive patient health data stay on Google’s servers in perpetuity? Nobody has said for sure.

Are records safe from Google’s data-mining juggernaut? Google has consistently said that it would not use health records for anything other than to steer traffic to its core search engine, but let’s face it, Google’s primary source of revenue is from algorithm-driven advertising.

But, you say, HIPAA protects patients from unauthorized uses of their data, right? Well, remember back to 2009, when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act expressly made third-party data repositories, health information networks and, yes, personal health records, into HIPAA business associates, effectively holding them to the same rules as covered entities under HIPAA.

Wouldn’t you know, both Google and Microsoft came out and said they were not subject to this provision. No less an insider than former national health IT coordinator Dr. David Brailer, who was a part of the legislative negotiations, told me then that lawmakers had Google Health and HealthVault specifically in mind when they crafted the ARRA language. As far as I know, there haven’t been any reported data breaches involving either PHR platform, so there’s been no need to test whether ARRA actually does apply to them, but if I had my data on Google’s or Microsoft’s servers, I’d be concerned. I’d particularly want to know what Google plans on doing with the data it’s been holding once Google Health does shut down.

Perhaps it’s time for me to make some phone calls.

NoMoreClipboard’s PHR Integrations with EMR Vendors

Posted on March 2, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

My very first meeting with a vendor at HIMSS was with NoMoreClipboard. I’d known of them for quite a while, but never really took them seriously before. After meeting with them, I was really impressed with what they’re trying to do in the PHR space. I was particularly interested in them since they have a PHR implementation in a university health center, but they go well beyond that.

In fact, I think the greatest potential for NoMoreClipboard is likely in partnerships with smart EMR vendors that want to integrate with a great PHR rather than putting up some half baked piece of junk software that they call a PHR. Yes, if you’re an EMR vendor you likely know what I’m talking about. It’s really hard to focus on creating a great EMR software and a great PHR software. Oh yes, and you have to do a Practice Management system too. It’s no wonder that PHR often gets set to the side.

That’s why it makes so much sense for smart EMR vendors to become channel partners with someone like NoMoreClipboard. Then, they can offer their users a PHR without having to build all of the features in house. Plus, NoMoreClipboard seems to have a nice set of API’s available so it almost seems like it is your PHR and not a third party PHR.

Sure, this has been around for a while, but I think that it’s taken a while for NoMoreClipboard to really build out the tools and features for doing this type of integration. The other key is that integrating with a PHR like NoMoreClipboard can also satisfy a number of the Meaningful Use requirements if it’s done right.

Of course, I had to also ask them what their take was on their “competitors” Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault. They are the 2 behemoths in the PHR space and so the question was certainly no surprise. What was interesting was NoMoreClipboard’s response to competition. They’ve basically decided to partner with them and integrate NoMoreClipboard with Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault. Yep, that’s right. You can import and export between the three PHR systems. That’s pretty unique if I do say so myself.

Now I’m not saying that NoMoreClipboard is perfect. There’s plenty they still have to work on, but I was impressed how far they’ve come since I last looked at them.

I’d love to here what other EMR vendors are doing as far as providing their users the PHR capability. Are you building your own or integrating with some other PHR vendor?

CVS Joins Google Health

Posted on April 9, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The more I consider what Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault are doing, the more I think that they just might have found the real solution to interoperable health records. I’m still holding out final judgment, but I’m really impressed with some of the things there doing.

For example, Techcrunch reported that Google Health just recently partnered with CVS for Google Health to connect with CVS to try and create a comprehensive pharmacy history. Considering Google had previously signed up Longs Drugs and Walgreens, Google is making good head way towards this goal. No doubt Google Health is also in discussions with Wal-Mart and Target, two of the other major players in this space.

Of course, the next step is to get patients to actually start adopting this technology. I can’t see many pharmacists pushing this feature. In fact, I’m guessing this might be an annoyance for them to have to support. Patients are going to have to force the issue if they want to use this. At least until there’s widespread adoption.

We’ll also leave the privacy issues of these connections for another day as well. Either way, these types of partnerships are like gold for Google Health. It creates a good foundation to build their product. I just still like to see more connections with EHR software vendors. I haven’t seen as many of those happening as I’d like to see.

Defining Implementation of an EHR

Posted on February 9, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of the key facets of any EHR investment by the government will look at ways to award money for usage of an EHR. The hard question they’ll try to answer is how do you define an EHR that’s implemented.

This discussion is not new. Every study you can find on EHR implementation has struggled with the idea of defining when an EHR is actually implemented. I think that most surveys I’ve seen usually allow the user to define whether they’re EHR is fully implemented or partially implemented. The problem with this is that each person is likely to define a fully implemented EHR in different ways.

If a researcher has a problem defining an implemented EHR can you imagine how much fun the government will have defining this same thing. Not to mention when you start to attach money to the definition it gets really hairy.

Let me propose a simple definition of a fully implemented EHR using 2 main factors.

1. Paper Charts are no longer created or passed around the office.
2. Patient data can be transferred amongst EHR using a standard such as CCR.

The first factor is easy to measure. Take a look at the paper charts and see how many were created during the past year. Also, look at how a practice handles a patient who already has a paper chart. As long as a practice is relying on a paper chart, they are not full EHR. I should clarify that paper charts can exist in the practice, but they just should only be used for sending out records for past patients.

The second factor is easy to measure, but I’m just a little afraid that the CCR standard is just not quite fully defined. I hope that having Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault will help to establish this standard in an effective way across the industry. Some sort of medium for sharing important information is needed. Even if it’s simply allergies and medications for now would be fine with me. It can always be expanded later.

Should be simple enough. The problem is that it’s probably too simple for government work.

The Case for RHIO and HIE for Sharing Patient Data

Posted on January 11, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

If you’ve been reading my blog, then you know that I’ve started a pretty interesting and complicated discussion about EHR and EMR sharing of patient data. I first posted an example of sharing data with an EHR and then followed it up with some challenges associated with sharing of EHR data.

In my interoperability challenges post, Bjorn from Health Xcel posted a lengthy comment discussing some challenges of data sharing and made the case for RHIO (Regional Health Information Organizations) and HIE (Health Information Exchanges) as a means for sharing patient data between hospitals and doctors offices.

His comment was so well done that I’m copying it below for more people to see and read it. I don’t personally agree with everything that was said. I also think he didn’t address the funding challenges of RHIO and the policy problems. Maybe Bjorn will return with some comments on how those might work. Enjoy Bjorn’s take on RHIO and HIE (emphasis added):

I think Google Health and MS HealthVault will be good awareness catalysts for the quiet e-health revolution that is taking place. However, I do not think the defining change we need lies with their business model. A patient-centric model sounds good but we’d be assuming that everyone has an account with one of these systems and that they know how to use them. How will the data about a patient that is stored in a hospital be reconciled with Google Health? Which of course leads to interoperability concerns.

Web 2.0 does not lend itself to creating a reliable e-health solution either as service A is dependent on service B and if service B is down, service A won’t function and has no power to fix it by their own volition.

I think so far the industry, aka hospitals, has been trying to solve the problem by adding a patient interface to large hospital systems so patients can see their records. It’s also a step in the right direction but again it is not the golden calf we are looking for.

So what is the ideal system of the future?
A patient should be able to enter any hospital in the world, conscious or unconscious, and the hospital should have all the information they need about the patient to administer correct treatment and to notify the right people.

How do we do this?
I am a believer in the HIE / RHIO model. In the [not too distant] future, hospitals should concern themselves with healing people and not how to spend their IT budget. Hospitals, insurance agencies, smaller providers and patients will all be connected to an RHIO (Region Health Information Organization) where they will have a wealth of services; either to enter sensitive data or to discover data about one patient or the entire population. RHIOs will be connected to a larger e-health backbone consisting of HIEs that are the great data aggregators of the world. RHIOs would be responsible for conforming to regional regulations. This model is similar to how we connect to the Internet today. We don’t jack directly into one of the main Internet hubs of the world but go through an ISP that can provide us with an email address, a web page AND connect us to the rest of the world.

HIEs and RHIOs run on a software platform where health IT vendors can deploy their software applications. Some required components:

User discovery
o Any one node on the system should be able to query the other nodes to find a user and her data
Portable user
o This goes with the first bullet point in that a user should be able to log in to the system anywhere in the world and even though the user does not have an account with the RHIO she is directly interfacing with, RHIO should know how to authenticate her correctly
Interoperability / Standards / Data aggregation and discovery
o The key to any successful e-health venture. Services need to be able to talk to each other. It shouldn’t matter whether the services reside within the same application or in different parts of the world. I believe the semantic web (web 3.0) will be a key facilitator of making this possible.
Federated security
o If we take the previous examples of Google Health and MS HealthVault, they would all have to have their own security scheme and user authentication and access control. Multiply that by a dozen and suddenly a lot of money is being spent on recreating the wheel over and over. We need a unified system for this.
Updates
o All applications should reside server side and users should have thin-client access only. When the applications are being updated, it should happen across the board overnight. If something goes wrong, there should be a way to undo the upgrade without hospitals or anyone else having to do anything.
Data sharing
o The patient-centric network will definitely happen as users become more educated. But hospitals still need to be able to have access to patient data even though they have not been granted access, in case of emergency.

Ok, this suddenly got really long ;-) There is a lot of work to do for everyone in order to get true e-health solutions to work. The biggest obstacles aren’t technical but political and also the willingness to adopt a new way of interfacing with your health.

Cheers
bjorn

Discharge Summaries by Email from an EMR

Posted on March 21, 2008 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Think about how wonderful the ability to send a discharge summary by email to a patient straight from your EMR. I think it’s pretty easy to see the tremendous benefits of this type of communication. Send the patient information to one place they probably visit every day and where they can read and process the information away from the hustle and bustle of the clinic. Certainly many doctors have been doing this with little pamphlets or handout sheets with clinical information. Unfortunately, too many of these sheets never get read. Certainly that same thing could happen with an email, but at least the next generation of patients are going to want this information in their email box.

Of course, the problem with sending this information in an email is that email is not secure. Email encryption hasn’t taken hold fast enough to make it encrypted. Is a user’s email box really a secure location where they want their health information? I personally don’t have a problem with it, but I would expect that many people wouldn’t want their health information in their email any more than their regular mailbox. Either way, without the encryption it wouldn’t be difficult for someone to sniff out what’s being sent in an Email containing for example a patient’s discharge. It would be going across the internet in basically plain text.

This situation actually happened in Austrailia a little while back in an article I read called “Unsecured email sparks dispute.” I know I wouldn’t be happy if a clinic just decided to send these unsecured emails. Not so much because I was personally worried about my information being lost. I personally have nothing to hide (yet anyway). However, I would feel uncomfortable patronizing an organization that would deal so flippantly with my information.

I’m sure that someone will chime in that this is the whole purpose of a Patient Portal or EHR interface that allows people a secure method to receive and send protected health information. This is all well and good, but from what I’ve seen this usually requires the doctor’s EMR company to support this type of interaction. Plus, even more serious of an issue is that you’re giving your patients one more login and password that they’ll need to remember. Certainly not a deal breaker, but one more inconvenience for our users and the staff that have to support our users when they forget their password. Unfortunately, I think that this is the future of secured messaging, but I can always hope that there’s something better that we’re just missing.

We should also realize that this isn’t going to get any easier. In fact, I think we can reasonably say that this is going to get harder and harder. Don’t be surprised if soon some patient would like their health information somehow incorporated into some site like Facebook. It’s really only a matter of time until some developer creates a health interface into Facebook.

It might not make sense to most people, but the next generation of patients are going to grow up living and breathing their online life in some sort of social network (Facebook is just one example of these). They are very comfortable with transparency and will be interested in being able to track and compare health information with other people. Not to mention interact in a social network with other people who have similar conditions. It seems like this isn’t a question of if, but when this type of interaction will happen.

Even if you think that health information on a social network like Facebook is far fetched, we are already seeing health information propagating to the web in Microsoft’s HealthVault and Google Health. Is this going to be ok? Will it become as synonymous as online banking has become to the banking world? It’s not that far of a stretch to think that Google Health could easily be tied into Google’s OpenSocial platform which would allow a patient’s health information to do all sorts of cool things.

The convergence of Health Care and IT is going to be really interesting. It’s taken health care a while to get going with IT, but I think almost everyone agrees that IT could do amazing things to better the health care a person receives.

Google Health Announced – Kind of

Posted on February 28, 2008 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Well, my prediction that Eric Schmidt would announce Google Health at the HIMSS08 conference were pretty close. From what I’ve read so far, that’s all he really talked about. I’m still waiting to see my contact that was able to attend HIMSS to see his thoughts on what was said. Sounds like he mostly reiterated what we already knew. A few interesting points:

-Google Health will not contain ads (although I bet that won’t stop them from using the information to target the ads it shows you other places)
-Eric Schmidt repeatedly said no data would be shared without the consumer’s consent (unless of course some hacker finds a way around Google’s security measures)
-1,370 volunteers at the Cleveland Clinic are beta testing the application
-Portability is the key (we heard that this was a form of CCR, but if it requires consent are people going to go to the effort to make it portable?)

Despite certain privacy questions and fears around Google Health I think that Eric Schmidt made a very good point about the way Google will protect your information from legal cases when he said:

“In the Google implementation, your personal health information will not be given to anyone without their explicit permission, which is not true completely for HIPAA-compliant systems. If we get a subpoena, we always check our judgment as to whether the subpoena is narrow enough. If we think it’s a fishing expedition, we will fight it in court. That has worked well for us so far.”

The battle of PHRs by Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault have begun. While I love to see the big players participating in healthcare, I’m not sure they’ve figured out the right motivational drivers that will make this a smashing success. It wouldn’t surprise me if in a few years we hear stories about a life being saved because of proper information and how even one saved life is worth it.

The biggest disappointment: No announcement about when we can get in and try it out ourselves.

UPDATE: Techcrunch think that whoever cracks the healthcare nut will have a huge new market. I don’t see it ever cracking. Marissa Mayer talks about Google Health on the Official Google Blog.