Online Health Records

Category: Reference

Recently, a few organizations have begun offering an alternative to paper documentation of health records. Would you trust your personal health records to an online company?

online health recordsStoring health records online is a convenient way to access and manage your and your family’s medical information, saving you the hassle and headache of filling out forms, or getting your doctor to transfer your info to another facility. Having access to your medical history at the click of a mouse can be extremely important or even life saving in the case of a medical emergency. class="imgmain" />

Storing Your Health Records Online

The idea of keeping health records online is touted as an innovation that will help control soaring health care costs by reducing paperwork, as well as keep health records safe and secure. There are several websites currently available that offer this service but the 3 biggest are Microsoft Health Vault, Revolution Health and Google Health. Let’s take a look at each one:

Microsoft Health Vault was the winner of the 2008 Global Healthcare Information Product of the Year Award. Microsoft’s mission is to allow the public to take control of their health records by storing them on the website. This offers a great advantage over relying solely on medical facilities that are often slow at collaborating with each other when it comes to your care. Health Vault stores your health information online so it is easily accessible to you and those who you give access.

Health Vault is referred to by Microsoft as "the hub of a network of websites, personal health devices and other services that you can use to help manage your health." The site partners with nearly 30 companies who offer physician friendly health applications that you can complete or upload to your Heath Vault account. Another advantage of Microsoft Health Vault is the ability to sync certain devices such as blood pressure monitors, glucose monitors and weight scales with your records.

When it comes to Health Vault, Microsoft has developed advanced security measures to protect your information from unauthorized users. In fact, you might even have trouble creating a ‘strong’ password that is acceptable to Microsoft.

Revolution Health not only stores your health records, but is also a large interactive health website that is reminiscent of and other social networking sites. The social aspect of the site allows you to create a profile with varying degrees of privacy, all of which are under your control. Revolution Health is chaired by Steve Case, one of the founders or AOL, and claims former Secretary of State Colin Powell as a member and investor.

When you create an account, you are given the opportunity to add information to your profile such as your health conditions, goals, and personal thoughts. Then you are given the ability to choose who has access; everyone, health revolution members, ’friends’ that you have designated or information that is only visible to you. If you have colored in a complete health history along with your most personal thoughts for example, you can easily pick and choose which aspects of your profile are available to others.

Revolution Health also has over 100 online tools that you can use to manage track your health records. These range from insurance comparisons to telephone based services that can answer basic health questions and settle insurance claims, and articles by doctors offering information on various health issues. There are also calculators for body mass index, daily caloric needs, activity/time it takes to lose 1 pound, heart attack risk assessment, and a pregnancy calculator. You are also able to track your weight loss and gain, your moods over time, your exercise routine and your blood pressure.

Revolution Health has a community area where you can meet other people, build your own content pages, and ask or answer health related questions. The site is filled with content related to the most common, as well as the most rare, health conditions making it an invaluable source of information for the modern consumer. The downside though is that it may be difficult to discern professional and accurate health information from the opinions of the average Joe since everyone is allowed to contribute.

Google Health also allows you to store and maintain your health records. Like Microsoft’s Health Vault, you can import your medical records from physicians, pharmacies and labs; however, you have to already have an online account with a participating health facility. So, if you live in a small rural town, it’s unlikely that your practitioner currently participates in the Google Health product. In this case you will have to enter your personal data manually. On the other hand, if you use companies like Quest Laboratories, or Walgreens Pharmacies, you can easily set up an online account with them and then effortlessly import your records to your Google Health account.

In addition to storing your health records, the search engine giant also delivers search results attuned to your personal health inquiries so that you can be an informed consumer. While these tools can be used to compliment your Google Health Account, they do not really provide any more of an advantage than just using the basic search engine alone. Google Health strives to be an impartial service provider, so they do not promote or endorse any health care providers, services, opinions, or other third-parties.

Compared to Revolution Health and Microsoft Health Vault, Google Health is a very basic program. But, if you are just looking for a simple place to store and maintain your family’s health information, Google is probably the least complicated and the most user friendly of the three mentioned here.

Security and Online Health Records

Having all of your health information in one place and accessible from virtually everywhere has a great advantage in cases of emergencies, for people who frequently move or travel, and for those who see a number of different doctors. It saves time, guesswork, and helps to prevent medical errors. There are however, some possible drawbacks to this attractive system, and as you might expect, privacy and security are at the top of the list. Worry starts with the fact that HIPAA laws do not apply to these online record storage services. The reason: these federal privacy laws apply to health care facilities, but not to consumers who voluntarily submit personal information to non-medical organizations.

Health records are personal and not what you want future employers, insurance companies and anyone else you do business with to be able to review without permission. While each of these health record storage services take extreme security measures they cannot be 100% fool proof, so sensitive or embarrassing health conditions could theoretically be exposed to unauthorized persons.

Microsoft, Google and Revolution Health all stress the effectiveness of their security and ensure confidentiality in their terms of use, but website privacy policies frequently state that they are subject to change without notice to you. If you are concerned about sensitive information, it would be a good idea to check the policy frequently to make sure that security measures and confidentiality haven’t changed.

Are you using or considering one of these online health record services? Post your comments below...

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Most recent comments on "Online Health Records"

Posted by:

Harry O.
29 Jul 2008

The system can have all the security in the world, but it would be very difficult to spot an employee who out of curiosity or for a fee chooses to browse your medical records.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I assume the records would be encrypted, to prevent casual browsing by unauthorized people.

Posted by:

29 Jul 2008

Would I want my health records online? NO NO NO

Posted by:

01 Aug 2008

There is no way that I would approve of having my personal medical records way because there definitely will be some breaches of security and privacy. and I consider my medical records PRIVATE.

Posted by:

03 Aug 2008

I believe that patient medical records maintained on-line would be a great convenience to patients only if all doctors used them. The AMA could take the lead and establish a standardized data base format where patients could store and update their medical histories for use by Doctors and hospitals. I prefer that the Federal Bureaucracy not be involved with the data base maintenance. Data security could be established similar to that used by on-line banking.

What is the great fear from having medical records securely stored on-line?

Posted by:

J. Peter Doonan Sr
06 Aug 2008

Is there a program which would allow medical records to be stored on a flash disk which could then be given to a physician or ER personnel in some 'universal' data format ?

It seems that would address the privacy issue (although of course one's own computer might be compromised.. but if the flash is only used when off-line, that might minimize any exposure..

EDITOR'S NOTE: I've heard of "life pendants" that can be worn on the neck for this purpose. See also

Posted by:

Barry Haber
06 Aug 2008

You do not mention Medic Alert Gold they allow you to save any and all tests and records. Fax it to them, they convert to PDF you store it in any of 11 folders which you name . Cost is 9.95 per month

Posted by:

Richard Katilavas
06 Aug 2008

If you don't think much of your medical information is already online in the hands of insurance companies and third parties, please be informed much of your medical information is already online in the hands of someone else, and as the population ages more and more records of individuals will be computerized by state Medicaid programs, Medicare, and Social Security.

So the question isn't what about my/your/our medical records online, but about verifying their consistency among these various source point, their security and accuracy.

Many people might say you can't compare them, but I believe patient access to and use of dental records is a good example of what medical records should strive for.

Posted by:

05 Mar 2009

The VA has two programs I am aware of "My Healthevet" and "Move" that will do what these cited programs will, but I really wonder about their security? Any knowledge of them?

Posted by:

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25 Feb 2010

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Posted by:

18 Apr 2010

This is all well and good, but the public has their heads in the sand if they think their health records are so called "private." As a medical transcriptionist, I know for a fact that a very large percentage of North American's health information is somewhere in India or the Philipines being transcribed offshore. (This is true for both US and Canadian citizens.) Yes, we have HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountablity Act), but it means diddly if the records are going offshore. Also, did you know that your doctors are sending carbon copies of your information to other doctors, with or without your permission? Something to think about!!!

Posted by:

31 Jul 2010

I agree with the other commenters who note that our records are already online and also already vulnerable to security breaches. The question is not IF you want your records stored electronically, it's HOW.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Online Health Records (Posted: 23 Jul 2008)
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