Google Health’s Journey of Making Patient Medical Data Publically Accessible for Everyone


Google has struck partnerships with some of the largest healthcare provider and hospital systems in the United States – but for what exactly?

Google is developing the ability to view or analyze patient records in at least three quarters of the United States. This will allow Google to access personally identifiable health information without the knowledge of patients and doctors…including date of birth, medications, and specific diagnoses.

From a personal injury standpoint, having medical records publicly accessible could affect someone’s case. For example, if someone gets into an auto accident and sets up a claim with an attorney, they are going to go to treatment for their personal injuries. An insurance company could google the client and find out information about them that could potential hurt their case.

This new development has raised concerns among lawmakers and patients and doctors, who fear that this confidential and intimate information could be used in ways they could not anticipate. However, Google claims that this new development could improve health outcomes.

Mayo Clinic, a well-known Minnesota based hospital, partnered with Google to allow access to information when needed, but Mayo Clinic states that the data will not include names or other identifiable information. The information gathered by Google can be used for purposes beyond diagnosing illnesses. Federal privacy laws make it possible for health care professionals to share data with certain outside companies.

Patients believe that HIPAA prevents doctors from sharing their information, but it can actually do the opposite. The rules of HIPAA are broadly written so healthcare systems can share patient data with an array of business partners to help with certain functions – such as quality assurance or practice management. So, as long as hospitals post notices that these agreements exist, they don’t have to tell patients where their personal data is going.

The head of Google Health, Dr. Feinberg, says that he is reluctant to allow people to opt out of Google’s health-search tool. “If you believe me that all we are doing is organizing that information to make it easier for your doctor, I’m going to get a little paternalistic here: I’m never going to let that get opted out.” He stated.

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