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Ask Not What Google Can Do For You ...

CMP Information Week
InformationWeek Daily - Monday, Feb 25, 2008


Editor's Note

Ask Not What Google Can Do For You ...

"Don't be evil" is the search giant's mantra, but its operative phrase is "Get r' done." CIOs should take a lesson from the tech chief at the Cleveland Clinic and look for ways to work with innovative companies like Google to drive their organizations' agendas.

Dr. C. Martin Harris, the CIO of the Cleveland Clinic, has jumped into bed with Google and he's taking arrows for it (to mix up my metaphors nice and thick) -- some of them from this Web site. But innovation is as innovation does, and I think Harris is to be applauded for working with the most forward-thinking company on the planet.

Google and the Cleveland Clinic announced a joint project that will enable the health care organization's patients to store their health records in Google accounts. The project is an extension of the Cleveland Clinic's already aggressive effort around personal electronic health records (PHR).

It is intended to address one of the thorniest problems in the ongoing effort to digitize the health care industry -- transmitting electronic health records from one caregiver to another. That's where Google comes in. When a Cleveland Clinic patient visits a non-clinic doctor, that doctor can transmit information about that visit into the patient's Google PHR account, so that the patient can then allow access to that data to Cleveland Clinic doctors.

In a news story, two of my colleagues reported on the program and pointed out, at length, the negative privacy implications of letting Google into the health care industry:

"Google's timing could be better. The World Privacy Forum on Wednesday issued a report warning that personal health records (PHR) are not protected by federal HIPAA privacy and security rules and that entrusting such records to a PHR service -- the very thing Google is offering -- raises a number of possible risks."

Sure, there are privacy issues connected with electronic medical records. And there are privacy issues connected with ATMs and online banking and Internet search, but those electronic efforts have proved very fruitful despite potential complications and pitfalls. Working with Google on an ambitious project such as this, that advances not only their organizations' business agendas but also their contributions to society, is the kind of forward thinking and innovative action more CIOs should consider. The Cleveland Clinic's Harris is to be commended for seizing the opportunity to work with Google.

Read the rest of my blog and post a comment here.

John Soat
jsoat@cmp.com
www.informationweek.com

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