It was only a matter of time before our medical records and medical histories teamed up with the internet. And not surprisingly, Google led the way with their Google Health beta program.
Launched in May 2008 to the public, the program is intended to offer users more control over the management of their medical records and other medical dealings. To that end, Google Health allows users to keep prescriptions and test results in a more organized and accessible format. And perhaps the most prominent feature is that users can now import all (or some) of their medical records into their account.
Signing up simply requires a general Google account. Seeing as the hallmark of many Google programs is their user-friendly nature, Google Health doesn’t disappoint. Logging into your Health account just requires your general Google account password.
Offering the edge on real-time medical information, the latest update to Google Health is new software allowing personal medical devices to stream data directly into your account.
The pros of the system in general are obvious. Not only can you personally manage your files, prescriptions, and other pertinent medical information, but doctors will also have instant access to your records. This means even if you change doctors, your medical records will be immediately available. This offers peace of mind especially to world travelers, as records can be accessed anywhere on the globe with an internet connection. Without an online resource, seeking medical care in a foreign country can be a tricky if not dangerous endeavor.
But the possibility of hacked records still looms large. On a personal level, the records can be accessed by anyone with your password, and on a larger scale, there is always the possibility of the system being infiltrated.
There is also the question of reliability and information accuracy. If your medical records aren’t available online for upload, you’ll have to manually enter the pertinent information. This can result in user error, or even more likely, user laziness. How many people are going to take the time to meticulously transcribe everything from their records into the online format? Knowing this, records are prone to be either incomplete, out of date, or in some cases, altogether wrong.
As always, Google insists they have covered every base and thought of every contingency. While the premise of the program and the latest improvements are certainly innovative, users must decide between the promise of innovation and the threat of breached security.