Should Google Organize Your Medical Records?

The current state of medicine in the United States calls for radical changes. Medical records are the issue of the major technological concern. Apart from burdening hospitals and healthcare providers with tons of unnecessary papers, traditional approaches to medical records make it difficult to trace the patient’s progress and often result in the loss of important patient information. Electronic medical records have a potential to replace traditional hospital operations and present a unique, cost-efficient opportunity to thousands of medical care providers in the U.

S. Google is one out of many to offer its ideas of how to enhance the efficiency of medical paperwork. Unfortunately, what Google offers to medical providers is the source of the major security and privacy concerns: today, hospitals must keep from using Google Health, until the company can guarantee safety, security, and complete privacy of sensitive medical information online. Google Health: Concepts and Stakeholders

In March 2008, Google presented its idea of how to alleviate the burden of medical records and improve the efficiency of the medical record system – Google Health had to produce a dramatic shift in the evolution of medical technologies and raise the efficiency of medical information processing. The Google Health case illustrates several important concepts: electronic medical records, privacy and privacy control, management of networking solutions, and security of electronic information management systems are the most important concepts discussed here.

The case also illustrates the concepts of responsibility and accountability of computer networking solutions: Google must be responsible for protecting sensitive patient information and be accountable for the steps it takes to enhance the efficiency of its system. More important, however, are the stakeholders that can influence the development of the system and, simultaneously, benefit from using electronic medical records. The basic stakeholders are patients, hospitals, and technological organizations like Google.

Other stakeholders include insurance companies, pharmaceutical and related businesses, as well as local and federal authorities. All these stakeholders will, in some way or other, benefit from using the Google Health technological framework. The current state of medical record: Problems and solutions That medical records present one of the most serious issues in the current health care cannot be denied. The current state of medical record in the U. S. healthcare is associated with tons of unnecessary paperwork – shelves full of folders and papers devoted to storage of medical records are a usual picture in hospitals (Anonymous, 2008).

Most medical records in the U. S. are currently paper-based and make effective communication in health care difficult. Medical professionals cannot always access the records they need. The duplication of records and paper-based operations is a common problem across medical providers. Each year Americans make over one billion visits to doctors, and there are virtually millions of paper records that occupy long corridors and shelves (Anonymous, 2008). More often than not, these papers cannot be regularly examined or shared with other specialists.

As a result, there is an urgent need to create a more sophisticated technological system, to eliminate paperwork and create an effective electronic health record framework. The system proposed by Google can alleviate the burden of paperwork in several ways. Google Health allows patients to enter and store their health information in an online depository and share this information with medical specialists electronically (Anonymous, 2008). Reminder messages for prescription refills, nearby doctor directories, and personalized health advice are free electronic services which Google Health offers to its customers (Anonymous, 2008).

Medical specialists can create a health profile for each patient, including information about their health condition, possible allergies and health complications, the history of medication and treatment, etc (Anonymous, 2008). Google Health can also receive medical information from other recordkeeping systems currently used by hospitals. The aim of the new system is to improve the efficiency of recordkeeping operations in healthcare and to help Google fulfill its mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” (Anonymous, 2008).

That the system is free for all users can be fairly regarded as one of its basic benefits. Ultimately, Google Health allows patients storing their medical records in one place and communicating effectively with all participants of the health care continuum (Steinbrook, 2008). Management, Organization and Technology Factors in Electronic Record Keeping From the viewpoint of technology, the system must be easy to use by non-professionals and non-experts: for example, a well-developed human interface will make it easy for customers and medical professionals without special technical education to use the system and its options.

The system must be easy to integrate with the basic hospital operations and compatible with other recordkeeping solutions currently used by hospitals. The system must allow transferring available electronic medical data from other storage systems and fit in the existing systems of management and organizational control. Today, “the adoption and use of technologies is a major paradigm shift and is often accompanied by a higher workload and lower net revenue during the transition” (Kralewski et al. , 2010).

As a result, the cost of such integration must be minimal and should not interrupt the continuity of business solutions already in use. Such system must have a degree of privacy and security that guarantees effective protection of patient health records from the risks of unauthorized access and use. The Google system of health information storage must be protected from potential advertisers’ intrusions. Only authorized users should have access and opportunity to change medical records online. Patients should have a chance to monitor the state of their health records and the changes made by their medical providers.

Complex protection against viruses and other technological threats that may distort or destroy patient information must be developed and used. Efforts must be directed to develop and test the usability of secure and effective EHR systems (Luchins, 2010). Consumers must be aware of the privacy protection mechanisms, to have some degree of confidence in the security of the new system. In terms of management, the costs of Google Health implementation by hospitals must be reasonable, to allow even small healthcare businesses using its benefits.

Managers will be responsible for the ways sensitive patient information is used. The data should be inaccessible for potential advertisers and/ or any other forms of unauthorized use. Finally, the data should be organized in ways that make it easy for medical professionals and patients to access and use it. Federal authorities must develop complex legal frameworks, to ensure that patient information is protected from the risks of unauthorized intrusion. Google Health: Benefits and Drawbacks Like any other medical record system, Google Health offers numerous benefits and is associated with essential drawbacks.

First and foremost, Google Health has a potential to become a catalyst for the process of standardizing and digitizing national medical records in an easy-to-use format (Anonymous, 2008). Today, only 15% of healthcare providers successfully use electronic medical records online (Anonymous, 2008). The introduction of electronic health records could increase the overall efficiency of the primary care systems and improve health outcomes (Dixon, 2010). Automatic transfer of data will mark a dramatic shift toward general acceptance of IT in health care, as the means to improve efficiency of medical care delivery (Roumans, 2010).

Second, the digitization of patient records can significantly reduce healthcare costs: once hospitals make initial investments, they can further reduce their costs by $80-$240 billion dollars (Anonymous, 2008). Third, Google Health can reduce the time and raise the overall efficiency of the basic organizational operations in hospitals – doctors and medical personnel will no longer spend hours, searching tons of paper to find the needed piece of patient information. Unfortunately, privacy remains the issue of the major concern.

Privacy advocates argue that electronic health records let Google advertisers access and use confidential patient information (Anonymous, 2008). The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 does not guarantee effective protection of personal medical records (Anonymous, 2008). Despite the fact that HIPAA was written to manage healthcare technologies more effectively, it does not meet the needs of the digital age and is insufficient to cover the new e-environment in healthcare (Brooks & Grotz, 2010).

Patients feel that hospitals’ decision to switch to electronic medical records can make this sensitive information even more vulnerable to various security threats. Today, Google Health does not have an effective system of security control and cannot guarantee that sensitive patients information can be stored safely in online depositories. Google Health: A Matter of Trust? Google Health is a good test to consumer confidence and trust: the more consumers trust the new medical record system the more chances Google will have to make its system a universally used technological solution.

Google Health displays a number of excellent features and has a potential to become a viable alternative to paper-based recordkeeping in healthcare. Unfortunately, the current state of Google Health makes it difficult for customers to trust it, and there are several reasons for this: a. Electronic health record systems make sensitive patient information vulnerable to the risks of external intrusions. More often, such intrusion and unauthorized access to patient information can produce serious effects on the future of each patient’s health and life.

The case of Patricia Galvin, who was denied disability benefits on the basis of her psychologist’s notes, are the bright example of how sensitive information can change the life and the future of every patient (Anonymous, 2008). b. Not all patients have abilities and skills and opportunities necessary to successfully work with electronic health records. Access to the Internet is the basic feature of any online recordkeeping solution. Unfortunately, the poorest population layers face serious issues in accessing even the basic care, let alone full-time access to the Internet.

Mandl, Kohane and Brandt (1998) are correct in that inequitable access to technologies may widen the existing social disparities in healthcare. c. Google tried to persuade the public that Google Health is fully secure, but no evidence was provided to prove that Google Health is not vulnerable to traditional security and privacy threats. Google Health exemplifies an eternal security vs. privacy dilemma (Wartenberg & Thompson, 2010). Today, customers are not aware of the mechanisms which Google will use to protect sensitive patient information from hackers and viruses.

Whether Google Health becomes a universally acceptable health solution depends on how prepared Google is to develop sophisticated mechanisms of privacy and security protection. Electronic Health Records: The Most Desirable Features As a person responsible for redesigning an electronic health records system, I would: (a) include a user-friendly interface; (b) develop a sophisticated privacy protection system, which will identify authorized users and create a complex protection barrier against unauthorized access to sensitive health information; and (c) make the whole system accessible and affordable for small businesses in healthcare.

The fact is in that small businesses often find it difficult to invest additional costs in the implementation of various electronic health record systems. Even when small healthcare organizations can easily plug in various IT features, such adoption of technologies involves a long co-process of organizational redesign and requires substantial changes in service (Spruell, Vicknair & Dochterman, 2010; Torda, Han & Scholle, 2010). Nevertheless, privacy and security will become the objects of the major professional attention, to ensure that sensitive medical information is well protected against the risks of unauthorized access and use.

Unencrypted transmissions should be avoided at all costs. The effectiveness of the future protection system will become the key to Google Health system’s success. Conclusion The current state of medical record in U. S. healthcare is associated with tons of unnecessary paperwork. As a result, hospitals find it difficult to exchange patient information effectively; duplication of medical records has already become a traditional issue in hospitals.

Google Health proposes an effective electronic solution to the discussed recordkeeping issues in healthcare: the new system allows patients storing their health information in an online depository and includes a number of technical options that facilitate patient communication with medical professionals and healthcare providers. Google Health has a potential to become a viable alternative to traditional paper-based record systems in healthcare. Unfortunately, Google cannot prove that its medical record system is not vulnerable to traditional privacy and security threats.

Today, Google must engage in the development of sophisticated barriers against hackers and viruses, to guarantee that sensitive patient health information is protected from the risks of unauthorized access and use. Customers should avoid using Google Health, unless are aware of the mechanisms which Google Health uses to protect their information from the risks of intrusion. References Anonymous. (2008). Should Google organize your medical records? Case study. Brooks, R. & Grotz, C. (2010). Implementation of electronic medical records: How healthcare providers are managing the challenges of going digital.

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Roumans, G. (2010). Electronic integration costs. Applied Clinical Trials, June, 136-137. Spruell, J. , Vicknair, D. & Dochterman, S. (2010). Capturing the financial benefits of electronic medical record investments in the small medical practice. Journal of Business & Economics Research, 8, 6, 85-95. Torda, P. , Han, E. S. & Scholle, S. H. (2010). Easing the adoption and use of electronic health records in small practices. Health Affairs, 29, 4, 668-675. Wartenberg, D. & Thompson, W. D. (2010). Privacy versus public health: The impact of current confidentiality rules. American Journal of Public Health, 100, 3, 407-412.

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