Medical information of people is something private and that’s precisely why Electronic health records today come with such secure encryptions. But what if a physician deliberately publishes patient’s private health information in order to get more patients or credibility online? Sounds like a sticky situation for the patient, but thankfully Google is here to help. In a recent announcement, Google said that it has started removing private medical records from its search results. The move came after the search engine giant adjusted its policy regarding personal information.
Google has now included the “confidential, personal medical records of private people” in the bracket of information it removes unprompted from the search results. Other examples of confidential information include images of signatures bank account numbers, national or government issued identification numbers, and credit card numbers.
The new move is significantly important as the publishing of private medical records can be tremendously damaging to the victims, both emotionally and financially. This can also affect the future prospects of the affected people and also their private lives. Recently an Indian pathology lab uploaded 43,000 plus medical records. This included the names of patients and their HIV blood tests results. It was found to be particularly damaging to these patients. Taking such events in due view, Google’s indexing system will capture any private medical record that’s publicly accessible on the internet.
The revealing of patients’ private and confidential health information by clinicians, all in order to get more credibility of their services online is a ridiculous practice. Medical practices and physicians can hire medical marketing companies to increase their customer-base as betraying the trust of their patients will actually ruin their reputation.
The accessibility of internet to everyone and the ability to upload information online by anyone has made the World Wide Web cluttered with misinformation and fake news. Unfortunately, such information was also being displayed by trusted search engines including Google.
This is why the latest addition to Google’s scrubbing policy clearly marked a change from the search engine giant’s traditional algorithmic approach that resists attempts at censorship. Finding this approach coming under scrutiny over the last few years and the spreading of fake news and misinformation, Google has adjusted its search results and it now down-ranks contested information such as fake news.
For many people, Google is the main center of all information. It is the go to place whenever anyone needs information. Now, if such a trusted and rapidly used source omits the information of a company and it effectively curbs the said company from the internet. Medical practices and other clinicians involved in practices who publish their patients’ health information online need to know that such activities may lead them to be effectively removed from Google’s search results. Few experts are also of the view that such activities can also lead to physicians being exempted from receiving government based incentives under MACRA if this is revealed information is brought up in a court of law. It is always better to work under legal guidelines and let your service quality be the one attracting patients to your medical practice.