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Google Health launches medical information management

BY Alaric DeArment

As the Internet becomes a storage shed for personal information ranging from vacation photos to bank records, it’s inevitable that people will begin storing and managing medical records online. Google’s latest addition to its repertoire of services aims to make that possible.

Google Health is designed to facilitate the storing and managing of medical information, as well as sharing between patients and healthcare providers. Google offers the service free to both users and business partners, though individual partners may charge for services. Its public data application programming interfaces allow any developer to create applications for it.

The company launched the service on May 19, following a two-month pilot period at the Cleveland Clinic that began in February and involved 1,600 patients using the clinic’s MyChart program. Immediately, pharmacy chains and other healthcare-related companies signed up to become partners.

“We’re thrilled that healthcare providers and online health services want to integrate with Google Health,” a Google representative said. “We’re looking forward to integrating with everyone.”

Walgreens announced the day of the launch that it would integrate its online pharmacy program with the service. Walgreens already allows patients to view their prescription information on its Web site, but hopes that integrating with Google Health will make it easier for patients to provide prescription and medical information to multiple healthcare providers.

“Our goal for this partnership is to help reduce healthcare costs by engaging patients in their health and allowing them to share information with all their health providers,” explained Don Huonker, Walgreens senior vice president of healthcare innovation.

Longs Drug Stores will offer a similar service. Longs, based in Walnut Creek, Calif., near Google’s Mountain View headquarters, was included as a “first mover” integration partner at an event marking the debut of the service May 19.

Despite its success so far, however, Google Health faces some challenges.

IDG News Service reported that Ronald Williams, chief executive officer of medical insurance company Aetna, downplayed the effect the service would have, saying that services like Google Health were not seeking to improve the system or looking for gaps in care, and that the data they stored was static. He told IDG that Aetna’s Care-Engine System, by contrast, went through medical research and literature and compared it with patient data, searching for potential problems and need for care and delivering alerts to patients and healthcare providers.

“We’ve always been strong supporters of competition,” a Google spokesperson said in response. “We believe that any effort to help make health information more organized, accessible and useful is a good thing—regardless of who’s doing it.”

Google Health also has competition from Health Vault, which Microsoft launched last year. In addition to the storage services that Google Health offers, Health Vault interacts with some brands of medical and exercise devices, such as blood glucose monitors, blood pressure monitors, weight scales, pedometers and heart rate monitors, through Windows Vista software, allowing users to upload information from the devices to their accounts.

The Google spokesperson emphasized ways in which Google Health differed from Microsoft’s service: leverage search as a natural starting point, a directory of doctors, decision support concerning drug interactions and relative openness to development by third parties.

There has been some concern about integration between Google Health and some of the company’s other services, though Google has emphasized that data will remain private and will be shared with healthcare providers only at the user’s discretion. It will, however, publish depersonalized, aggregate data, such as trends in the number of diabetes patients who receive flu shots.

“Google Health puts users in complete control over who views their health information and who can add information to their profile,” Mike Yang, senior product counsel for Google, wrote in an entry on the company’s official Google Public Policy Blog.

The company said it would work to evaluate feedback from users and partners to improve and develop the service and add new features.

“Health care today faces many challenges, and many people have been working to address these challenges for some time,” a representative said. “Google Health is not an end-all solution, but it’s a good start.”

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Michaelson to leave FreshDirect for Supervalu

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK FreshDirect has announced that chief executive officer Steve Michaelson will leave the company to join Supervalu as chief marketing officer.

He previously worked for Weis Markets, where he began working in 2002.

His replacement will be Richard Braddock, who became chairman of the Internet grocery company in 2004. He had previously worked at Citibank and Priceline.com. “I chose to increase my involvement with the company because I love the business and I think it has great growth potential,” Braddock told Crain’s New York. “Over the past years I’ve developed a deep respect for the FreshDirect team and am looking forward to helping unlock the potential of this company.”

Based in Long Island City, N.Y., FreshDirect delivers groceries around the New York area. It is a private company. Supervalu has headquarters in Minneapolis.

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CVS Caremark employees to take part in Easter Seals events

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. This year, thousands of CVS Caremark associates nationwide are expected to participate in Easter Seals Walk With Me events as part of the CVS Caremark All Kids Can program.

Since 2006, the company and its private foundation have contributed more than $4 million to Easter Seals, including CVS Caremark All Kids Can Fund gifts to support Easter Seals autism services, and a commitment to Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago’s Therapeutic Day School and Center for Autism Research, scheduled to open this fall. In addition, each year CVS Caremark has been a sponsor for Easter Seals Walk With Me events and employee teams have shown their support through Walk With Me pledges and local Easter Seals fundraisers.

On Saturday, hundreds of CVS Caremark employees in Providence, R.I., will converge at Roger Williams Park Zoo to raise money for local children with disabilities. Walkers in Saturday’s event will include about 350 CVS Caremark employees and their families, who expect to raise more than $75,000 to expand Easter Seals’ early intervention services in the state.

Since 2006, some 7,000 employees have raised more than $1 million through walks for local Easter Seals affiliates.

“In Rhode Island, 14 percent of children under 18 have a disability, and nationally, 9.2 percent of American families with children have at least one child with disability,” stated Eileen Howard Dunn, senior vice president of corporate communications and community relations at CVS Caremark. “CVS Caremark is committed to improving the lives of children with disabilities through our All Kids Can program. We are very proud that so many of our employees are helping us support Easter Seals in expanding its extraordinary services to even more children.”

Inspiring employees during Saturday’s walk is a local girl named Lily May, who was born with disabilities, but who has succeeded far beyond through Easter Seals’ early intervention services.

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