Google Health: Potential web-based database

by Jennifer R
The author discusses a new software developed jointly by Google and IBM, designed to allow personal  health records to be stored online. It allows physicians to upload medical data from their mobile devices onto a web-based database, as well as allowing upload of information from hospitals and device manufacturers. Patients can access their own health records as well as check on the status of family members or relatives with chronic conditions. Despite being faced with privacy and security concerns, both IBM and Google believe moving medical data onto a personal health records platform will provide better information to both doctors and patients. They say it will facilitate more timely communication between doctor and patient. Google Health uses IBM’s Information Management software called Cognos.

This article brings up the subject of managing sensitive and confidential data on the web. The debate over moving databases on to the cloud continues, and it seems Google is testing out the practicality and safety of such a concept. It looks like the database can be expanded by anyone, as the author mentioned Google Health would be provided free of charge. Although the article did not go into detail, privacy and security could be big obstacles to over come for Google Health. It brings up such questions such as who has administrative access? How much data will be seen and by who? Who will take responsibility if a clerical error such as a typo causes serious health issues?

I found the article interesting because I know there are many laws and procedures that protect patient health records. I also know release of patient medical records requires consent of the patient. How would they control that if records are accessible online? What if patients do not wish to have their information posted online? What would stop their doctor or family member from doing so?


Gaudin, S. (2009, February 8). Google, IBM Team on Health Records Project. PCWorld. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from

3 thoughts on “Google Health: Potential web-based database”

  1. I am not surprised that Google and IBM has entered the e-health business especially with their existing analytic services and ability to gather large amounts of information from the internet. The article does not provide any features or examples on how the program intends to uphold privacy, whether through securing the transformation of information or any regulations that will protect people’s private information. An article in the Wall Street Journal by Deborah Peel (2010) noted that within the past five years, 45 million electronic health records were stolen by internal users of the database, externally hacked, or lost. Extensive measures must be implemented in order to keep sensitive information secure and private. The system must be reliable and trusted, otherwise the full potential of the software will not be utilized if the public withholds information or does not access health care services in fear of the breach of their privacy.

    Peel, Deborah. 2010. Your Medical Records Aren’t Secure. Wall Street Journal Opinion. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from

  2. I’m honestly a little scared of this, I think its best we leave the storage of sensitive information like our medical records to HMO’s like Kaiser who in my opinion have it in their best interests to protect the data. With an HMO, you’re actually paying them keep track of this kind of information, their percentage of risk in failing to protect this information is a lot higher. Google has less transparency in their policies, and since it will likely be a free service, I doubt it would be in their best interest to keep the data private. Essentially, Google makes money off of the amount of information that they have on us. The benefits of course with Google and IBM are their superior technologies compared to HMO’s like Kaiser in regards to maintaining this data and providing the service. Who knows, with Google’s past success, they’ll probably add this to their already large amount of services they provide.

  3. I find this article a fascinating concept, and ended up with a lot of unanswered questions similar to what you mentioned in your post. The first questions that arose all fell within Information Security – particularly would the information be secured with just a pin number and a password, like online banking? The second question I had involved what sort of jobs this could lead to. Kaiser Permanente already hires professionals proficient with networking and Management Information Systems, and I would love to see all medical fields implement more individuals to manage data in a manner so that people can view their medical information online! Potential future fields of work for CIS majors is always exciting to hear about!

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