Beth Israel Deaconess Is First Boston Hospital to Integrate with Google Health

Boston isn’t just home to a bevy of top-rated hospitals—it’s also the birthplace of medical informatics, or the storage and retrieval of health data. (The MUMPS programming language—for Massachusetts General Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System—was written in 1966 and is still one of the most widely used languages for creating database-driven clinical applications.) So it isn’t surprising that a Boston hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, is one of the first two healthcare facilities to partner with Google Health, the free consumer-oriented health information management portal launched by Google yesterday.

Effective immediately, approximately 5,000 patients at BIDMC who use the hospital’s PatientSite portal and have existing Google Gmail accounts can export BIDMC records on their diagnoses, medications, and allergies to Google Health’s database, which is designed to help consumers manage their own medical records in a secure online environment. Over time, all 40,000 monthly users of PatientSite will be offered the ability to export their data to Google Health, according to John Halamka, the CIO at BIDMC, who is also a member of the Google Health Advisory Council, an unpaid group of medical professionals who advise Google on health-related product ideas and development.

“We believe that patients should be the stewards of their own data,” Halamka said in a BIDMC announcement timed to coincide with the launch of Google Health. “PatientSite is wonderful if all care is delivered at BIDMC. However, many patients have primary care doctors, specialists, labs, pharmacies, and non-traditional providers at multiple institutions. Our vision is that BIDMC patients will be able to electronically upload their diagnosis lists, medication lists and allergy lists into a Google Health account and share that information with health care providers who currently don’t have access to PatientSite.”

John Halamka MD, CIO at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical CenterHalamka, who was at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, CA, for a media “factory tour” that served as the occassion for the health portal’s official launch, also blogged about the effort, stressing that security and privacy are “foundational” to the effort. “The privacy policy, with oversight from the Google Health Advisory Council, stipulates that data will never be transferred, sold, mined or released without specific consent of the patient,” he wrote. “Patients completely control the content and may remove it any time.”

The other hospital joining Google Health as a founding partner and allowing the importation of its electronic medical records is the Cleveland Clinic. Meanwhile, anyone with a Google account is free to manually enter health-related information such as their age, sex, height, and weight, diagnosed health conditions, medications, allergies, procedures, test results, and immunization records. They can then grant doctors and other service providers access to these records. From the Google Health site, users can also receive alerts about adverse interactions between the medicines they take, and connect to a range of online health assistance services such as a heart attack risk calculator from the American Heart Association and a diabetes monitoring tool from

Google Health, which has been in the works at Google for more than two years and was the subject of premature launch rumors back in February, isn’t the only health data aggregation site BIDMC is working with. The hospital also has a partnerships with Microsoft’s Health Vault portal and with Dossia, a consortium of large employers such as Wal-Mart and BP that’s assembling a system where employees, dependents, and retirees can keep lifelong electronic health records.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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One response to “Beth Israel Deaconess Is First Boston Hospital to Integrate with Google Health”

  1. Glenda Steele says:

    Patient Nancie Nesler coming in today from
    Cape Cod, please give her message from South
    African Steele family, give her love and
    assurance that we are thinking about her and
    hope she is soon well. Thank you,