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Google Health and claims data

I’ve suspected for a while that one reason why personal health records haven’t taken off was because the “untethered” kind that are not tied to a specific provider organization’s electronic medical record or portal tend to be built with claims data. That is, an insurer or employer combs through billing codes to piece together records that ostensibly contain clinical records.

There are numerous problems with this, of course. First off is the workflow issue. If the doctor doesn’t have an EMR to import PHR data, then the PHR represents an extra step that the typical physician isn’t willing to take.

Then there is the reputation of managed care. Health insurers often are just slightly above oil companies, politicians and Bernie Madoff on the public’s trustworthiness scale. I imagine they’re even lower from the perspective of doctors who are asked to accept these claims-based records and use them in the practice of medicine. I’m sure there are some payer-sponsored PHRs that are fairly accurate, but they don’t ever get much of a chance because of this perception.

That said, claims-derived PHRs can never be fully accurate representation of health status because the ICD-9 (and soon, ICD-10) billing codes are completely different than CPT diagnosis codes. Don’t believe me? Ask Dave deBronkart, aka E-Patient Dave.

DeBronkart’s story is widely known among health IT types, but he was featured Monday in the Boston Globe. That article tells something I didn’t know, that there was inaccurate data in a Google Health PHR that had suggested cancer had spread to his brain or spine, as well as a few other false alarms.

The Globe quotes many of the usual suspects, notably deBronkart’s personal physician, Danny Sands, as well as Drs. Paul Tang, David Kibbe and John Halamka. While this may not be news for those in health IT, I think this story should be required reading for anyone considering a personal health record.

April 13, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Steven Heusing, IMIA executive director, dies at 64

Canadian medical informaticist Steven Heusing, executive director of the International Medical Informatics Association, died Sunday. He was 64. Mr. Heusing had been in declining health for a number of years and reportedly had had two kidney transplants.

Mr. Heusing, a resident of Edmonton, Alberta, was founding president of COACH, Canada’s Healthcare Informatics Association and co-founder of the Canadian Healthcare Information Technology Trade Association (CHITTA), now called ITAC Health. He was editor and publisher of Healthcare Information Management & Communications Canada, the official journal of COACH and ITAC Health.

To recognize his service, COACH established the Steven Heusing Scholarship in 1999 for students in Canadian health informatics or healthcare information management programs.

Current AMIA President Dr. Reinhold Haux, director of the Peter L. Reichertz Institute for Medical Informatics at the University of Braunschweig Institute of Technology and Hannover Medical School in Germany, issued this statement:

Steven Huesing was an outstanding person and professional. As Executive Director of the International Medical Informatics Association, he has for many years provided significant and global contributions to the progress of our field. It is through his tireless work that IMIA has developed into the leading international association that it is today. Since the start of his career, in the 1960s, he has been a pioneer and ambassador to the advancement of computers and information technology in healthcare. Among the many recognitions of his contributions, he was honoured for his exceptional work with the prestigious Canadian Health Informatics Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Additionally, Michael Martineau posted his thoughts on the eHealth Musings blog.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.