Google has announced that it will be working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on a pilot program that will let Medicare beneficiaries in Arizona and Utah import their claims data into Google Health.
Google recently enabled users of Google Health to share their medical records and other personal health information with trusted contacts, in a move that will allow the solution to become more robust in its competition against Microsoft and health-care-specific Websites such as WebMD.
"The pilot is one of several CMS programs to test out how the government can give beneficiaries secure access to their medical data online," Missy Krasner, product marketing manager for Google Health, wrote on the corporate blog. "Before I came to Google, I worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which houses CMS. At the time, the idea of giving beneficiaries access to their own Medicare claims data in electronic format was just that-an idea. Today, it's becoming a reality."
The U.S. government plans to devote more than $19 billion of the stimulus package to health IT-related projects.
Given that privacy has been a perennial concern for Google, most recently with regard to its new interest-based advertising, Krasner was quick to point out that Google Health, which does not post ads, is also preventing Medicare beneficiaries' information from becoming totally transparent.
"For beneficiaries who choose to participate, it's important to know that Medicare does not have access to information in your Google Health Account-Medicare will only be sending data to your Account," Krasner wrote. "Beneficiaries who participate in the pilot will still have access to data imported into their Google Health Accounts after the pilot concludes at the end of 2009."
Google Health will be one of four PHRs (personal health records) that the participants in the Medicare Arizona and Utah pilot can choose from. One of the goals of the pilot, apparently, is also to give those beneficiaries choice in the tools they use to manage online medical records.