The news that Google is amassing huge amounts of patient health data to create a unified platform where healthcare providers can search patients’ individual records has been met with mixed responses. On the one hand, this could ease workflows for healthcare provider, giving them easy access to patients’ records and creating more personalized care and better health outcomes. On the other hand, Google and the other Big Tech companies trying amass health care data don’t exactly have stellar privacy records, and doctors, patients, and lawmakers worry that the data could be used without people’s knowledge or permission. Ideally, it should be possible to streamline healthcare without putting people’s data at risk. But for that to be the case, we would need the right regulations and security in place. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Big Tech amassing health care data.

The Pros: Personalized Care and Better Health Outcomes

A unified healthcare platform that lets healthcare providers look up patients’ history could solve a common challenge in the healthcare industry: systems are fragmented, making it difficult to track down patient information, which is often in different places. That means healthcare providers could be missing out on important information about their patients. If patient records were in a single platform, health providers could easily look up information on patients and provide more personalized care, resulting in better outcomes. In this scenario, Google’s access to different kinds of data some health experts have pointed out, could be advantageous, too—for example, using both medical records and genetic information could improve the accuracy of mammograms.


The Cons: There Goes Patient Privacy

Consumers and patients’ privacy has already been regularly compromised by the very companies eager to zero in on health care data. Last year, Google didn’t inform users about a flaw that revealed the personal information of subscribers to Google Plus and, on the health side, is currently facing a lawsuit from a patient in Illinois alleging that an arrangement between Google and the University of Chicago Medical Center included information that could identify individuals using other data that Google holds. There’s a very real risk that personal healthcare data could be breached or identifiable or even misused for purposes like targeted ads. At the moment, there isn’t enough regulation around corporate use of this kind of data to guarantee that the data says protected and companies are not being transparent about how data is being used. Without that transparency and regulation, we can’t be sure what will happen to the data.


The Bottom Line

The idea of placing healthcare data in a single place for healthcare providers to access is a good idea—until you look at the privacy implications. Without the right kind of regulations and accountability in place, it may result in deeply personal data being identifiable or even targeted for ads. We need to push for systems in place that promote sharing of patient information while still protecting the patient. Vaporstream allows healthcare organizations to do just that, by sharing patient information and automatically routing it to systems of records without risk of it being compromised. We make sure that healthcare providers can work quickly and securely, so that the quality of the care they provide is personal while protecting the patient. See what we look like here.