Google has teamed up with the prestigious Cleveland Clinic in the US to pilot a system which lets patients transfer their existing medical information to its new online Personal Health Record (PHR) service, Google Health.

Once transferred to Google Health patients will then be able to manage and control access to their records, deciding who they want to share them with.

In a keenly-anticipated announcement the internet search giant said it will manage the electronic health records for almost 10,000 Cleveland Clinic patients who currently use the hospital’s online health records system. Patient participation is voluntary.

The Google Health pilot will test secure exchange of patient medical record data such as prescriptions, conditions and allergies between their Cleveland Clinic PHR to a secure Google profile in a live clinical delivery setting.

A Google UK spokesperson told EHI the service will only be made available in the US initially, with global expansion to be considered in the future.

The ultimate goal of this patient-centered and controlled model is to give patients the ability to interact with multiple physicians, healthcare service providers and pharmacies.

“Patients are more proactively managing their own healthcare information,” said C. Martin Harris, chief information officer at Cleveland Clinic. “At Cleveland Clinic, we strive to participate in and help to advance the national dialogue around a more efficient and effective national healthcare system.

“Utilising Cleveland Clinic’s PHR expertise, this collaboration is intended to help Google test features and services that will ultimately allow all Americans (as patients) to direct the exchange of their medical information between their various providers without compromising their privacy,” he added.

The pilot will eventually extend Cleveland Clinic’s online patient services to a broader audience while enabling the portability of patient data so patients can take their data with them wherever they go — even outside the Cleveland Clinic Health System.

“We believe patients should be able to easily access and manage their own health information,” said Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google.

“We chose Cleveland Clinic as one of the first partners to pilot our new health offering because as a provider, they already empower their patients by giving them online tools that help them manage their medical records online and coordinate care with their doctors.”

The pilot is expected to last between six to eight weeks. Google will then evaluate how best to extend or expand the program.

A Google spokesperson stressed to E-Health Insider that they have no plans to add providers to the pilot or to sell or share data without explicit patient consent. The system will initially run in the US, and global expansion will be considered in the future.

“Google views its expansion into health records management as a logical extension because its search engine already processes millions of requests from people trying to find about more information about an injury, illness or recommended treatment. The user decides with whom to share the data, and they can revoke that at any time,” he said.

In a statement, Google added: “The integration between the two systems will help deliver:

  • National Access — A more efficient and effective healthcare system driven by a working interoperability model that moves electronic medical records from a closed model to one that is open and connected.
  • Consumer Empowerment — A secure patient-centric, consumer-driven tool that will provide each consumer increased control of their medical care, without compromising their privacy. This will empower patients to actively manage their overall health.
  • 24/7 Access/Portability — A web portal with 24/7 access, capable of providing the consumer with an opportunity to actively engage in their health care, heightening the importance of quality care and service by providers.”

Google Health has been discussed since early 2006. Codenamed “Weaver” throughout its development, the launch comes four months after rival Microsoft started its own virtual medical file for patients in October, HealthVault, a secure website that allows users to store and share their health records using a free online service.

Other competition includes Revolution Health, which also offers online tools for managing personal health histories, backed by AOL co-founder Steve Case.

Toby Cosgrove, president and chief executive officer of the Cleveland Clinic, and member of the Google Health Advisory Council, said: “The partnership with Google is an example of true innovation in health care which brings value to patients and providers.

“As the volume of medical information available to patients increases, it becomes more important for doctors and patients to use this information in a way that empowers the patient to be more collaborative with their care providers.”



Cleveland Clinic


Joe Fernandez