Medical errors could be reduced, efficiency could be enhanced and costs reduced if physicians and hospitals stored patient health records electronically. Nevertheless, medical and health facilities have been slow adopters and so far, there hasn’t been much forward motion to standardize the technologies and software that do exist.
Even though the health industry, the federal government and EHR (Electronic Health Records) proponents have discussed electronic storage for years, most of what can be found on the web are mind-numbing papers and reports that could interest only a policy wonk. And little has been done.
Into this breach have leapt corporate technology behemoths Microsoft and Google. Microsoft’s HealthVault is online now and GoogleHealth is expected to launch at mid-year.
In an effort to see for myself what these websites look like and how they operate, I intended to create an account at HealthVault. I was thwarted by the requirement to use only Microsoft’s proprietary Windows Live ID. I once signed up for it, so I tried to log in but had forgotten my password. Following the instructions twice to recover it by email (this was on Saturday), I am still waiting this morning for Microsoft’s message to arrive.
I’m all for tight security, particularly on a health records website, but this is going too far, and Microsoft doesn’t give a lot of information about HealthVault without an account. Generally, it appears, you can upload health records and use certain health monitoring devices to upload readings. And, you can give access to physicians, family and others you select.
From what I can tell without an account, Microsoft’s HealthVault is a free service. Google, which is currently running a beta test with the Cleveland Clinic, has announced that some features will require a paid subscription.
Online health records services are controversial, particularly in regard to security. It is not encouraging to read that when Google announced GoogleHealth and was questioned about the possibility of an employer firing a worker after finding health records online, Google advisor and CEO of non-profit HealthTech, Dr. Molly Coye, replied,
"But those are human actions. They have nothing to do with the technology."
- - USA Today, 26 February 2008
Perhaps Dr. Coye should stick to medicine; the whole idea is that technology be secure enough to prevent unauthorized access and adverse “human actions.”
With a bit of searching, I discovered WorldMedCard, another health records service that is free, HIPAA compliant (which neither Microsoft nor Google mention, that I can find) and is owned by VR Surgeon, Inc. about which I can find no information.
But it is helpful, if you don’t have a Microsoft Live ID, to get an idea of what the online record storage system might look like. The site has a good set of screenshots from a link on the home page which you can view without an account.
For convenience, safety, cost containment and efficiency, EHR is an idea whose time is long past due but as much as I'd like to have all my scattered records in one place, nothing I’ve read convinces me that online storage is secure enough yet for me to participate.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Claire Jean tells of learning a new skill at age 50 in Esther Williams Revered.]