Google Health, Google's health care IT solution, has been taken to task by physicians who say the billing information it uses for some patients' electronic medical records can give an inaccurate picture of their health conditions. Since rolling out in Feb. 2008, Google Health has been positioned as competition for Microsoft's health care IT offerings, as well as sites such as WebMD.
is encountering protests from users who say the information its Google Health beta
Website presents has the potential to be inaccurate when it comes to electronic
Much of the online traffic over the issue has stemmed from one particular case,
that of kidney cancer survivor Dave deBronkart, who transferred his medical
records from Beth Israel
Center to Google Health, only to
find that the latter had taken information from his billing records to
incorrectly state that he had chronic lung disease and other conditions.
"I've been discussing this with the docs in the back room here, and
they quickly figured out what was going on before I confirmed it: The system
transmitted insurance billing codes to Google Health, not doctors' diagnoses,"
deBronkart wrote on his personal blog on April 4. "And as those in the
know are well aware, in our system today, insurance billing codes bear no
resemblance to reality."
He also wrote, "I suspect processes for data integrity in health care
are largely absent, by ordinary business standards. I suspect there are few, if
any, processes in place to prevent wrong data from entering the system, or
tracking down the cause when things do go awry." deBronkart took care to
say the post was not "a slam on Google Health."
However, the story reached the Boston Globe on April 13 under the title
"Electronic Health Records Raise Doubt." The article quotes
deBronkart's primary physician, Dr. Daniel Sands, as saying the information
from billing records, incorporated into Google Health, should never be used
When contacted by eWEEK, a Google spokesperson referred to the Globe
article's quoting of Dr. Roni Zeiger, product manager for Google Health, as
saying having such information available online will benefit users in the long term
as the solution's accuracy improves.
"That's something I think we could do better on," the article
quotes Zeiger as saying with regard to whether Google Health indicates the
source of data for each diagnosis.
A number of online pundits have stated that physicians and other health care
providers should be concerned about the importing of insurance billing records
into Google Health precisely because of this lack of accuracy. Google has not
posted a response on its blogs yet.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.