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Google Health unveiled

3rd March 2008

Google has unveiled its personal health data service in the United States, Google Health at an industry conference in Orlando, Florida.

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The announcement came just days after Microsoft launched its US$3 million fund for the development of web-based applications for its HealthVault record-keeping service.

The migration of patient health records to electronic platforms allowing easy transfer and access by healthcare professionals is a problem many healthcare systems are struggling with.

Paper records are all too frequently not in the right place at the right time, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Both Google and Microsoft have designed systems aimed at keeping better track of patients' medical records. But their products differ in important ways.

Google Health is currently in trial with US-based healthcare partners like the Cleveland Clinic, and a broader roll-out for US customers is expected in a few months.

It enables access to a centralised personal health record, as well as searches for products and medical services or professionals.

By contrast, the aim of HealthVault is to help healthcare providers and other professionals to get the content online in the first place.

It can be used, for example, to collect data from a blood-pressure monitor and to collate and share it online with any professional involved in the patient's care.

But experts hope it will eventually be developed to work together with Google Health, synchronising the patient's records on that site.

Microsoft hopes many such applications will be built using HealthVault as a platform.

Both Microsoft and Google appear to have left the door open to possible collaboration in future, and such a partnership may make all the difference, industry analysts say.

Currently, only 20% of physicians use electronic health records in their practices. And much of that is stored in standalone systems with no external access.

Government incentives, and a growing demand for web-based services among consumers, are slowly changing the situation, however.

Microsoft's HealthVault has more than 100 partners. Google's test initiative has nearly 30 and is quickly adding more.

 

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