Endorsing a path towards a "meaningful use" definition

After weeks of collaboration with a diverse group of organizations, today Google endorsed the Markle Foundation's framework on Meaningful Use and Certification. The framework outlines criteria for hospitals and physicians wishing to qualify for the health IT-related federal stimulus funds in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Among other things, the ARRA allows providers to qualify for health IT funding if they demonstrate that they are making a "meaningful use" of information technology. We think it's critically important that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) considers patient access to their digitized medical records via electronic health records (EHRs) when considering how to define "meaningful use."

Though Google Health will not directly receive stimulus funding (we are not asking for any), we see the framework as a critical step for moving the healthcare industry towards solutions that we believe will improve patient care. Simply put, we'd like to see the movement from paper-based medical records to digital records achieve its vast potential. Patient access to digitized medical records via EHRs helps people prevent illness, manage their health-related information and transactions, coordinate care and communicate with clinicians, understand health care costs, and take better care of loved ones.

As a provider of Google Health, a personal health record (PHR) service, we also believe it is very important that consumers have choice and ownership of where and how they want to store their data. We support the concepts of data portability, so that you can take your data with you no matter what hospital or delivery network you're being treated in, as well as healthcare data interoperability, so that you can transfer your information among multiple systems.

This isn't the first time we've supported a Markle Foundation framework -- in June 2008 we endorsed the Common Framework for Networked Personal Health Information, which proposed a set of important privacy principles for personal health records (PHRs), and we've since adopted these concepts within Google Health.

Improving the United States' healthcare system is a complex topic with many interlocking components. The system’s size and complexity as well as the inherent challenges in the fields of medicine and public health make this a major undertaking. This framework's effort to improve consumer access to online data is an important step, and it builds upon Markle's previous work.