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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Halamka gets Googled

halamka 150.bmpDr. John D. Halamka is nothing if not connected.

The chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has a radio frequency identification chip implanted in his body that points to his personal health information. He belongs to a statewide group working on ways to connect medical records throughout different health care systems. He has championed technology as critical to patient safety at Beth Israel.

Now he's part of a new Google Health Advisory Council. The search-engine giant's announcement says the 24 experts it has convened -- including well-known diet book author Dr. Dean Ornish, former NIH head Dr. Bernardine Healy and former FDA commissioner Dr. David Kessler -- will "broadly help us better understand the problems consumers and providers face every day and offer feedback on product ideas and development."

The council move its causing a bit of a stir for two reasons, at least as reflected on the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog and Kevin, MD. One fear is that patient privacy will be compromised if it goes online in some fashion. The second wave of criticism came from nurses, medical librarians and even medical bloggers disappointed not to be represented on the panel.

Halamka is traveling in Japan, his out-of-office e-mail reply said earlier today. Known for being almost as tightly attached to his Blackberry as his RFID chip is to him, he won't surprise anyone if he comments later.

Update: Here's Halamka's response from a Buddhist temple on Mt. Koya, where he was not immediately able to access the critical comments:

"Google's mission in the healthcare area is to empower consumers to make better health decisions. They can accomplish this by helping patients search better and helping them manage their personal health information," he wrote. "If patients provide aspects of their medical history during the search process (with appropriate privacy protections, of course) then the relevance of the refined search results is likely to be much higher."

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 08:06 AM
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