By David Blumenthal, M.D.: For More Info, Go Here…
A recent agreement between Google and Ascension, a huge national health system, is yet another sign of how the digital revolution is transforming health care. We are at the dawn of a new era where clinicians will be able to apply in real time the collective human experience in treating any particular problem to the care of every patient with that condition.
But the critical reactions to the agreement — under which Ascension will send to the Google cloud the clinical data it collects on its 50 million patients, and Google will process that data to help Ascension better manage its patients and its finances — make it clear that changes of this magnitude are never smooth. The announcement generated concerns about patient privacy and the misuse of information for the private gain of third parties. It triggered an investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and calls from members of Congress for further inquiries. We are obviously at the beginning of what will likely be a long, contentious, and vital debate over how to manage personal health information in the digital age.
Patients have an undeniable right to privacy and control over their personal health data. Doctors and hospitals need leeway to use patient information in their care. Patients, health professionals, and the larger society have an interest in learning from our collective experience with care to better prevent and treat disease. And tech entrepreneurs want a return on their capital when they add value to the management of health-care data. The coming debate will be about how to manage these sometimes conflicting interests as health information technology revolutionizes our health care system.