Web search company Google Inc is testing in the United States an online storage bank where individuals can store and access their medical records, the company said on Thursday.
Just last week, Google said it was teaming up with the Cleveland Clinic, a leading academic medical center, to test an exchange of medical data that Google says will put the patient in charge of his own records. The electronic system will allow patients to control their records and interact with multiple physicians, health care service providers and pharmacies.
Google said other possible partners include health insurer Aetna Inc, medical testing company Quest Diagnostics, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies, and hospitals.
Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, addressing a Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Conference in Orlando, Florida, described a secure information service in which consumers store their health records in a Web-based system on Google computers.
Access to medical records would require a login and password, he said. Privacy is one of the first principles of the system, Schmidt added.
The information in your health record is yours and it doesn't get shared with anyone else without your permission, he said.
Asked if the system would make money for Google, Schmidt replied, Not in the short-term.
Google makes money by selling online advertisements on popular Web services it offers. But it refrains from advertising on other services such as Google News.
The company stands to benefit indirectly from its medical record service by encouraging consumers to seek out more medical information using Google search services. The company can sell advertising against such follow-up searches.
So many of our (searches) are health-related that we must be successful here, Schmidt said.
Efforts to transition from paper medical records potentially stored at multiple locations to electronic records stored centrally have been frustrated for years, partly because of concerns about security.
Today, only a tiny minority of hospitals and primary care physicians use electronic medical records. Google said it chose the Cleveland Clinic as a partner because it already has an electronic records system in place.