Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Google Health Takes on Faulty Medical Records

Google Health is trying to apply lessons learned from one of its users to improve the accuracy of medical records. An item on the Google blog tells how the user, whom they call "e-patient Dave," found that data was imported into his Google Health Account from his hospital in Boston that included "diagnoses that were both alarming and wrong."

The data came from the billing codes and associated descriptions used by the hopsital to fillout Dave's insurance forms.

"These descriptions, from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9), often do not accurately describe a patient because the right ICD-9 code may not exist," says Roni Zeiger, M.D., Product Manager of Google Health. "So the doctor or hospital administrator chooses something that is 'close enough' for billing purposes. In other cases, the assigned code is precisely what the doctor is trying to rule out, and if the patient turns out not to have that often scary diagnosis, it is still associated with their record."

Google Health and Dave met with hospital officials, and they worked out a plan to address the situation. The hospital agreed to stop sending ICD-9 billing codes and will instead only send to Google Health the free text descriptions entered by doctors. The hospital is also working with the National Library of Medicine (NLM) to associate those free text descriptions with a more clinically useful coding system called SNOMED-CT.

"The result will be more accurate and useful information in patients' Google Health profiles," Zeiger says.


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