I’ve written before about Google getting into PHR domain, and now the service is publicly avalilable. Needless to say, I’ve taken a quick look at it, and it looks promising. There are a gazillion things being discussed all over the web, and almost everyone seems to be concerned about privacy and security. A large proportion of users in USA are discussing about the fact that HIPAA does not cover Google Health, and Microsoft HealthVault.
The first announcement that I saw was in OpenHealth mail list, and others followed during the day. A quick look showed that the overall consistency of Google apps is preserved in this one too. It is built for a purpose, and it makes you focus on that purpose. You get in, you use it to put your healht info online, you get out. The thing that I’d like to take a deeper look into is the importing mechanisms. Other than the obvious do it yourself style data entry, Google supports at least some standards for data import. So far I’ve seen CCR (Continuity of Care Record) mentioned. This is another proof of an argument I’ve been discussing with a MD friend of mine: simple things work. Why? Because they cover a verly large percentage of real life situations, and the other part that is not covered is usually sacrificed. Of course oversimplifying things leads to systems which become a pile of crap in the long run, but the point is, something like CCR import will probably let Google store a very large amount of data.
Needless to say, this is a little bit too USA oriented. In other parts of the world, HL7 (CDA in this context) and OpenEHR, along with 13-606 rule the domain. Now comes the tricky part: in case Google or other PHR vendors chooses to adopt one of these earlier than the others, this may change the balance of power.
To explain more: PHR is very important, because it is immune to legal issues that is giving a hard time to large scale systems. Once a user clicks on that magic “I Agree” checkbox, storing health info, transferring it etc becomes legally trouble free (well, more or less) . In the journey to holy goal: storing and transferring health data electronically, PHR may become a very significant implementation. When such a significant implementation uses a particular standard instead of others, or supports one better than the others, that can create a difference.
I have to say that I heard less about Google Health before the public launch than I heard about HealthVault by Microsoft, but the public release looked quite good to me. Now I have to take a look at the api part of things to see how I can connect my existing work into this. This is a field that is going to see a lot of action in the near future.