Google has launched its site for storing personal medical data, Google Health. And it's the first site I've visited that can download medical data from one of my providers, stirring my interest more than competitors have.
As with similar services from Microsoft, Revolution Health, and WebMD, the basic service at Google Health is a place to store personal medical data. But most of the sites depend on individuals to enter the data themselves.
All of them, like dozens of other health-related sites, also offer information, forums, and other tools on diseases and conditions. They also help manage wellness programs such as diet and exercise.
But Google and Microsoft appear to be the most aggressive in linking to data already stored by health providers, such as doctors, clinics, and pharmacies. Google, for example, launched with a number of partners, including the Walgreens and Longs drugstore chains.
My family fills most of its prescriptions at Walgreens. And it was easy to link my Google Health account to the Walgreens database, making a history of my medications an integral part of my Google-based personal health record. That's a nice first step.
A bigger fish, though, would be the insurers that already store much of our health histories. My insurer, Aetna, already offers extensive records through its own online service. Aetna is reportedly in talks with Google and Microsoft about sharing the data.
The prospect of links connecting all of them is exciting. It's also daunting, with a number of privacy experts warning that consumers could stumble into unexpected disclosures of health records—even assuming the best intentions on the part of Google, Microsoft, and others.
As a consumer, I could stomach what seem like small risks to my privacy for the sake of convenience. I'd at least like the option.