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Home » General » When someone can read your medical records, is that “social networking”?

I have a fairly geeky abstract question about one aspect of the e-patient world. It’s not pivotal for issues of empowerment, access to care, etc, but as my friends and I keep learning about participatory medicine, the topic of social networking keeps coming up. And the topic came up on another blog last week, in a way that puzzled me.

If you’re not interested in geekier abstractions, have a nice day and I’ll see you next time. :–)

On Thursday, Beth Israel Deaconess CIO John Halamka’s Cool Technology of the Week feature spotlighted an announcement by Google Health: they’ve added the ability to share access to your Google Health data, so you can invite others to look at your data.

Halamka calls this “social networking.” (Note: Google’s announcement didn’t say that, John did.) This struck me as odd: to me social networking is all about the *new connections* you make, as you connect with new people you probably never would have met, people forward links to each other, etc. And I sure hope my medical data wouldn’t spread that way!

So I commented and tweeted about that, and a most people agreed. But in a backroom exchange here on, John Grohol disagreed:

Most definitions of social networking I’ve seen may imply propagation, but do not explicitly require it. By sharing information with a specific network of a dozen individuals, you are already propegating that information from your personal file, to the files of a dozen others. If it goes no further than that, that’s still social networking.

As the founder of the highly successful PsychCentral, John knows a thing or two about what makes a difference in social networking. But I still don’t see it his way. :–) You?

Some soup starter for you: Google results for define: social networking.