It is with this experience in mind regarding health information on the web that I'm mulling over the recent public debut of Google Health, an online electronic health record (EHR) that is owned by the person who creates it but has import capability from the electronic medical records (EMRs) of healthcare and other organizations that have partnered with them.
This sounded great to me, until I dug around to find out exactly who these partners are
Google Health Partners: About our partners"Interesting companies that offer personalized online health tools" sounds suspiciously vague to me. Seeking more information about just how the partnerships work, I checked out the developer policies in place for them. Under the Data Use section is
Google Health is an open platform. We publish our technical documentation and anyone who wants to integrate or partner with us can do so. We don’t work exclusively with any organization or company. We partner with doctors, hospitals, medical clinics and groups, retail pharmacies, health insurance plans, laboratories, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), and interesting companies that offer personalized online health tools to our users.
Clearly label advertising
Contrast this to Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) #6
- Promotional* notices must be clearly labeled as promotional
- Promotional notices may be sent a maximum of once per week per user
- Links in notices must open in a new window or provide a working back button
* Definition of promotional: Promotional materials are any materials that promote a product or service - such as encouraging the user to purchase or "ask their doctor" about a specific item. This includes coupons and sale announcements, as well as drug advertisements.
So, as I understand it, Google Health itself will not have advertising as part of its basic platform. If users opt in to use third-party applications as part of their Google Health records, then there could be advertising generated from them.
6. If it’s free, how does Google make money off Google Health?
Much like other Google products we offer, Google Health is free to anyone who uses it. There are no ads in Google Health. Our primary focus is providing a good user experience and meeting our users' needs.
This fact is not currently stated anywhere in the FAQ or the general user information that I can locate, but there is You can also use Google Health to access a host of online services and tools, from a variety of third-party companies, that can help you better manage your care. in FAQ #3 that states outside applications are possible to integrate in your Google Health record.
I'm concerned about this, especially regarding user populations with low web and/or health literacy who may 'keep clicking' to access applications without reading the terms of service or understanding the consequences of sharing their personal health information with them.
I have not signed up for my own account as I'm satisfied with my access to my HMO's EMR (got that down as a positive mention, guys?) that is protected under HIPAA and prefer to keep my health information that way.