Google Health signs on first insurance partner

US firm to allow members to post claims data to Google Health

Less than a month after Google launched Google Health, a site where consumers can store medical data online, it nabbed the first insurer to participate in the effort.

Google Thursday announced that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts has agreed to let its members import personal claims data to their Google Health profiles. The move blunts some of the program's early critics, who had complained about the lack of support from insurance companies. Because insurers have claims data that spans various doctors, hospitals and pharmacies, they are often seen as a key to providing adequate data to populate personal health records (PHRs) systems.

"Our members tell us they want easier and more portable access to their health care information," said Steven Fox, the insurer's vice president of provider network management, in a statement. "Having this information in one place can play an important role in managing a member's health and in helping members and their doctors make health care decisions that can improve the quality of care they receive."

Once the integration is complete, Massachusetts Blue Cross members will be able to manage all their health information at Google Health, and share it with any health care provider. Google Health allows users to store data about medical conditions, medications and past treatment online. Each time new data is added to a user's profile, the system checks for potential adverse reactions to a medication or treatment.

At its launch last month, Google Health's list of partners include the Cleveland Clinic, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Walgreens, CVS/Caremark and Longs Drugs, which are integrating their data with the online storage tool.

The Blue Cross integration is planned to be completed in the fall of 2008. At that time, all members of the Massachusetts insurer can access Google Health for free. To use the service, members will have to start a Google Health account and authorize the import and sharing of the claims data with Google.

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