Google recently took a hit for a blog post by a salesperson who was evangelizing healthcare clients that the spending marketing funds Google ads could counter the negative publicity from Sicko. But Google's real interest in healthcare is more about its search and hosting businesses, as reported by Steve Lohr in the New York Times.
Google's health effort is led by Adam Bosworth, who has a long history in software development. He worked at Borland on the Quattro spreadsheet, developed the Microsoft Access database, and worked on various projects at BEA prior to joining Google. In a blog post from November 30, 2006, Bosworth wrote:
People need the medical information that is out there and available to be organized and made accessible to all. Which happens to be our mission. Health information should be easier to access and organize, especially in ways that make it as simple as possible to find the information that is most relevant to a specific patient's needs.
Patients also need to be able to better coordinate and manage their own health information. We believe that patients should control and own their own health information, and should be able to do so easily. Today it is much too difficult to get access to one's health records, for example, because of the substantial administrative obstacles people have to go through and the many places they have to go to collect it all. Compare this to financial information, which is much more available from the various institutions that help manage your financial "health." We believe our industry should help solve this problem.
As the Internet increasingly helps link communities of people, we also think there is an opportunity to connect people with similar health interests, concerns and problems. Today, people too often don't know that others like them even exist, let alone how to find them. The industry should help there, too.
According to Lohr's story, Google has developed a prototype of a "health profile," which includes listings of conditions, medications and allergies, and a personalized guide for suggested treatments, drug interactions and exercise; alerts for appointments and prescription refills and directories of health care givers.
Microsoft is also interested in healthcare, Lohr reported. Steve Shihadeh, general manager of Microsoft’s health solutions, cited the need for "grand scale" storage, software and networking to deal with personal health and medical information. Companies like Google and Microsoft who can afford to built out the datacenter and network infrastructure for vast amounts of text and multimedia data, such as scans and x-rays, have an advantage. Microsoft has been investing in software for managing patient records, medical offices and hospitals.
Neither Google orMicrosoft are not showing their cards regarding personalized health records. But it's fairly obvious where the technology is heading. First, all healthcare data has to be digitized and placed on secure, reliable infrastructure. Privacy issues need to be resolved, as well as data mining guidelines established. One of the great benefits could be pooling all the richly tagged data to look for trends that could lead to improved healthcare.
In the future of the "data Web," healthcare information and alerts relevant to an individual will show up in the same way Amazon recommendations surface. With the data online, you could input symptoms, upload images and the "system" could check against your history, medications, allergies, etc., prior to an online video consult with a physician thousands of miles away.
While the big healthcare tech revolution is moving at a glacial pace, people are increasingly turning to the Internet. A recent research study by Ask.com, which was conducted by Harris Interactive, found that 70 percent of adults use the Internet as a primary resource for medical and health information. Nearly 30 percent of adults use the Internet to find alternative treatments. On the heels of the research, Ask.com is introducing Health Smart Answers, which provides editorially selected search results, with data from Healthline and Revolution Health at the top of the results page.