Boston — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts this week became the first medical insurance provider to partner with Google Health, Google’s recently launched online medical records service offered free of charge to patients.

With the goal of improving the safely level and efficacy of its health care services, BCBSMA Chairman and CEO Cleve Killingsworth says the partnership is expected to make available an important tool that can be used by members to keep better track of their medical information.

The initiative is the result of interest from members in having access to their personal medical records in a way that’s easier to maintain and includes improved portability says the insurer.

The portability issue has spawned concerns from some in the industry, however, who believe that privacy and security is an ongoing issue that must be addressed. In response to these concerns, BCBSMA reports that signing up is voluntary, no personal data will be shared or sold, and members have the option to discontinue or cancel entirely their Google Health accounts at any time. According to the insurer, members can open a password-protected Google Health account and access records from every medical facility or pharmacy they’ve included in their own personal online files. Further, the BCBSMA-Google partnership gives insured patients the ability to file and track insurance claims using their Google Health account.

Once the Google Health platform has been fully integrated with that of BCBSMA, say the companies, members will have access to service features that allow them to:

  •     Organize, manage, and store personal health information in one secure online location.
  •     Access and store downloaded records and prescription information from other healthcare providers also enrolled as partners in Google Health.
  •     Transfer medical data to and from healthcare providers.
  •     Stay informed about issues or interactions that may affect the individual’s state of health, such as drug interactions or potential adverse reactions.
  •     Find a doctor or hospital using the online service.

Like many of the BCBS companies, BCBSMA has been actively involved in promoting health information technology. Last June, INN reported that BCBSMA and Atlanta-based health care information technology company MDdatacor Inc. began a pilot project utilizing health information technology to collect and analyze patient medical records to provide the treating physicians with reports that identify patients whose current treatment does not achieve published clinical guidelines.
MDdatacor's Web-based product gathers patient medical records from electronic medical records, transcribed office notes and lab results received directly from the treating physicians and combines it with the claims and pharmacy data received from the health insurers into a searchable database. This information is analyzed and used in support of pay-for-performance, physician-centric disease management, and portable electronic health record programs. The pilot called for BCBSMA and MDdatacor to offer the solution to a select group of physicians in Massachusetts for one year.

The integration between Google Health and BCBSMA is expected to be complete by late 2008.

Sources: Business Wire, Google, Insurance Networking News archives

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