The Good and Bad of the Situation
Google has announced in their official blog that their Personal Health Record (PHR) experiment is coming to an end on January 1, 2013. If you have data entered on their site there will be enough time to safely export the data to another application. However, this announcement, like many events in life, is not all good or all bad for the average healthcare consumer. There are still many useful, and free, options for the empowered patient. Microsoft’s HealthVault is available, as well as an AHIMA version, MyPHR which can cover the needs of most, if not all, consumers. What then is lost, really, from this announcement? Not as much as you might initially think.
First and foremost the Google name brought attention to the important idea of patient empowerment. Unfortunately, after the initial surge, the interest trailed off. One difficulty may have been that the people who are likely to use this application, Baby Boomers for example, may not have been aware of the existence of Google Health, or they may not have had the inclination to use an electronic version of any paper records they may have collected. This is a challenge that must be overcome for any electronic platform to be successful.
Secondly, the benefits of increasing the awareness of patients and their families of the care they receive can also influence the quality of the care delivered. Hopefully this attention will be diverted to other PHR solutions. When more people are included in a process, accountability becomes shared and fewer mistakes can occur. By creating free, portable, electronic versions of something as vital as an electronic health record, it will continue to be an asset to improving care for large numbers of people.
Finally, one of the bigger disappointments comes from the loss of a large source of creative energy that will not be applied to solving the problems of adoption of PHRs. Google has found ways to improve the quality of our digital lives, and hopefully this setback will lead to other solutions from other places. Even with this setback, we are one step closer to the answer, even if we only figure out what doesn’t work.
Read more about author and Clinical Informatics Educator, Paul Dow, BS, RT(R)(CT)