Online Update

Google gets into the PHR game

Google has released on a blog a prototype of its personal health record, or PHR. As PHRs go, it's pretty straightforward, breaking down a patient's record into familiar categories: conditions and symptoms, medications, allergies, surgeries and procedures, test results, immunizations, family history, and personal stats like age, sex, and height. What's innovative about this prototype PHR is its ability to create an individual "health guide" based on respected online health resources like those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mayo Clinic, all compliments of the vaunted Google search engine. For example, the PHR could assemble articles for a newly diagnosed diabetic on managing his disease.

Of course, PHRs might not be useful on a massive scale if the only person entering the data is the patient himself. However, by forging partnerships with health plans, pharmacies, and healthcare providers, Google could make these data transfers automatic, assuming that the patient okays the process beforehand. Family physician and healthcare IT consultant David Kibbe likens such a data exchange to what's found in the banking industry, where a withdrawal from an ATM machine automatically appears in your online account. "It's that kind of network," he says.