Googling your medical records?


Google's dominance of the internet seems to grow daily. Today's announcement is that Google will start storing medical records on a trial basis. About 1,500 to 10,000 patients at the Cleveland Clinic have agreed to have their medical records transferred electronically to Google. They will be able to access their own password-protected records to see test results, information about their prescriptions and other medical information in their files.

Of course, privacy experts are concerned. They're afraid that Google is becoming too dominant in digital data, and they also fear that the records may not be properly secured. In particular, they're worried about how much information Google has already accumulated about individuals, and they're afraid this will just add to its cache of information.

I think that online medical record storage is only a natural progression of this digital age in which we live. I think it will be interesting to see how increased consumer access to their own records will help people become healthier. It's also been suggested that it makes sense for Google to store these records, as so many patients already use Google's search engine to research symptoms and diagnoses.

Consumer advocates warn patients though: Once you allow your medical records to be released to a third party outside the healthcare system, those third parties aren't bound by HIPPA privacy rules and you may be making it easier for the government or a party in a lawsuit to gain access to those records. Now that is scary, and may negate (for me) the advantages of being able to access my health records at any time.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.