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4/13/2009
07:53 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Google Health Records Reveal Grossly Inaccurate Info

Google Health users are finding stunning inaccuracies in medical records imported from primary-care physicians and hospitals because Google takes some information from insurance billing records that use broad and imprecise codes to describe patient treatment. One electronic health-records expert says "this kind of information should never be used clinically." Feeling better?

Google Health users are finding stunning inaccuracies in medical records imported from primary-care physicians and hospitals because Google takes some information from insurance billing records that use broad and imprecise codes to describe patient treatment. One electronic health-records expert says "this kind of information should never be used clinically." Feeling better?The comment above is from Dr. Daniel Z. Sands in describing how a kidney-cancer patient's Google Health record indicated - erroneously - that the patient's cancer had spread to his brain or his spine, and also that he had a number of other life-threatening conditions he never knew about.

As these types of frightening incidents come to light, more physicians and EHR experts are expressing deep concerns about populating patient-controlled systems, such as Google Health, with information from insurance billing records. That concern reflects the dilemma the medical industry faces today: while insurance billing records offer the richest source of ready-to-go computerized healthcare information, they are also the source of a wide range of grossly inaccurate medical information, according to a Boston Globe article.

Personal health records, such as those offered by Google Health, are a promising tool for patients' empowerment - but inaccuracies could be "a huge problem," said Dr. Paul Tang, the chief medical information officer for the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, who chairs a health technology panel for the National Quality Forum. For example, he said, an inaccurate diagnosis of gastrointestinal bleeding on a heart attack patient's personal health record could stop an emergency room doctor from administering a life-saving drug.

And according to Dr. David Kibbe, senior technology advisor to the American Academy of Family Physicians quoted in the article, "Claims data is notoriously inaccurate and notoriously incomplete with respect to an expression of the problems a person has."

The Globe article - a great piece for anyone interested in the subject - says that Google's stance on this highly complex issue is that for patients, some information is better than none, and that inaccuracies over time will be resolved. While that may be true, that's one caveat that needs to be spelled out much more clearly in these early days of creating visibility and mobility for this most personal of information.

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