Should HIPAA Extend to Include HealthVault and Google Health PHRs?

Interesting commentary on the New England Journal of Medicine article about new commercial PHRs published in the NYT:

In an article in The New England Journal of Medicine, two leading researchers warn that the entry of big companies like Microsoft and Google into the field of personal health records could drastically alter the practice of clinical research and raise new challenges to the privacy of patient records.

The authors, Dr. Kenneth D. Mandl and Dr. Isaac S. Kohane, are longtime proponents of the benefits of electronic patient records to improve care and help individuals make smarter health decisions.

But their concern, stated in the article published Wednesday and in an interview, is that the medical profession and policy makers have not begun to grapple with the implications of companies like Microsoft and Google becoming the hosts for vast stores of patient information.

The arrival of these new corporate entrants, the authors write, promises to bring “a seismic change” in the control and stewardship of patient information.



  1. It’s funny how we swing from no adoption to irrational exhuberance. I can related at the hospital I work. Seven years ago I was trying to convince my IT dept to start developing the web as a medical tool. Now I’m the one sounding the alarm now that over-eager people want to be the first to deploy web apps without due diligence on security. Google especially seems to be a magic word that elicits excitement and visions of grandeur. The NEJM article is a timely reminder of the realities that at times seems to escape aspiring visionaries. Yes it will happen, yes it will be a huge change, but we must be careful as we do it. We are still at the stage where we are building infrastructure for personally-controlled health records. If we build it right, the killer apps will seem to write themselves.


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