Insurance giant Aetna is launching SmartSource, an online service that lets patients access their medical records. The company joins Microsoft (MSFT), which has released HealthVault, and Google (GOOG), which has announced Google Health, in the push to give patients access to their personal records via the Web.
Aetna’s service has issues at first glance. TechCrunch points out that the service is very “insurance-centric,” because of its focus on health care costs and billable events.
But we think there’s some overlooked upside for Aetna here. According to this AP story, neither Microsoft nor Google is covered by the HIPAA, the federal law that protects the privacy of consumers’ medical records. The law creates standards of use for medical information and applies it to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers, among others.
This could work to Aetna’s advantage — if they can convince consumers that their insurance company is more trustworthy than an Internet company. Both Google and Microsoft have given assurances that they would protect privacy, and there’s no doubt that both programs will contain privacy provisions. But while many conusmers harbor serious animus toward their health care companies, they may find their claims more reassuring than those of Jerry, Sergey and Larry.