Google Health launched this week to the public. It is pretty much what everyone anticipated — an online electronic record that people can maintain if they wanted to. Highlights include quick information at your fingertips to your health concerns that you enter in. A user’s profile includes pretty much what everyone has seen in the prior screenshots: Age, sex, height…; Conditions; Medications; Allergies; Procedures; Test results; and Immunizations. Under each profile area, you can enter things in by hand, or choose from long, long alphabetized lists of medications, procedures, etc. Too bad it doesn’t have that “Google magic” and recognize that when you enter in a condition, you may want to step through everything related to that condition in a tutorial-like manner.

Lowlights include the fact that it only allows importing data from 8 different personal health record services (none of which are software-based records which you may have from a Windows program or what-not), and no exporting of your data whatsoever. So much for being “open.” Also, apparently Google is licensing health information from ADAM and incorporating it into the record when you want a quick reference, taking Google down the road of yet again competing against publishers and playing favorites in this space. The user-interface is… clunky, to put it gently. You have to add a medication, test or procedure, and then click on it separately to add its details. It looks like the interface was designed by programmers, not people who actually deal with health conditions on a day-in, day-out basis.

The current service, which carries the Beta tag and likely will for years to come (just as Google’s Gmail service has for years), is labor-intensive and the benefits seem… distant. There are no graphs, no real tracking abilities, nothing to make this health record stand out from any other attempt at this sort of personal health record in the past decade. In fact, I was completely underwhelmed by what it is currently offering.

Over at The Health Care Blog, you’ll see a different point of view from one of Google’s 8 launch partners (you know, the same 8 that you can import data from). Granted, it may be convenient to have a hospital do a lot of the heavy work for you in terms of importing all of your existing data into the Google Health record. But once it’s done, I’m not really sure what you get from it.

John Halamka notes that once you’ve imported your data, you can “receive drug/drug interaction advice, drug monographs, and disease reference materials.”

So what? You can get all of this today and have been able to for years.

He goes on to say, “[Patients] can subscribe to additional third party applications, share their records if desired, and receive additional health knowledge services.”

In other words, patients can then choose to: send their data to yet another service (which may or may not require payment and means your data goes out to yet another third-party who gets to market to you based upon it); or subscribe to additional fee-based services. (I couldn’t find any way to share my record with anyone else.)

If we take this out of corporate-speak, it largely sounds like the Google Health record is an ideal way for other companies to market to you based upon your specific health concerns!

One last note:

The data standards underlying Google interoperability include a proprietary form of the Continuity of Care Record, called CCR/G. Google has committed to supporting the standards which have been recognized by HHS Secretary Leavitt including the Continuity of Care Document. The vocabulary standards used by Google and its decision support partner, Safe-Med, include SNOMED CT, LOINC, NDC, RxNorm, and ICD9.

Naturally, like many, I’m a little leery of anything that’s proprietary and not open-standards in this day and age. I hope Google will publish its proprietary form of this record so all can make use of it in the future.

Updates: The Google implementation of the CCR standard is open and available here as I later learned through some digging.

You cannot “hide” your main profile. When I attempted to do that, it would hide it, but then create another “unhidden” profile with the same name. Perhaps a bug?

Google says they delete your data permanently when you delete a profile. What they don’t say is what happens to the data you’ve shared with third-party providers because of Google Health. Do they get the delete request as well, or do you have to delete your data at every third party service you sign up for?

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