From its inception Google Health has been about giving patients control over their medical data. For starters, that means we help people access their health information, give them a safe and secure place to store it, and let them share it with others if they wish. Over time our goal is to help consumers play a larger role in their own healthcare by empowering them with the information they need to make better healthcare decisions.

As part of this effort, we're endorsing an industry-wide Declaration of Health Data Rights. Unveiled today at, the Declaration aligns with the principles behind Google Health: consumer empowerment, privacy protection, and data portability. We've joined a diverse group of stakeholders -- including doctors, researchers, technology companies, writers, entrepreneurs, health economists, and others -- that have come together to support this effort to promote greater patient access to personal health data.

While most of the rights outlined in the Declaration are already included in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), there are still practical challenges to acting on these rights. For example, getting access to your medical records today often requires that you fill out a form at your doctor's office, pay a $35 copying fee, and then wait a month or more to receive your records in the mail. Under the law, this is your data, and we believe you should have it the day you visit your doctor.

We hope the Declaration will help raise public awareness about the rights already protected under HIPAA and also help drive the public debate towards increasing patient access and control over their own health data. Strong health data rights will help patients collaborate with their doctors in order to get better care and avoid medical errors.