Google and Wal-Mart diagnose $4 trillion health care market

Google and Wal-Mart diagnose $4 trillion health care market

Summary: Can the world's largest search engine and the world's largest retailer solve the nation's health care problems?The U.

TOPICS: Health

Can the world's largest search engine and the world's largest retailer solve the nation's health care problems?

The U.S. health care market is projected to be a $4 trillion one by 2015.

Google Vice President Adam Bosworth and Wal-Mart Vice Chairman John Menzer are personally invested in seeking to improve the health care delivery system with the use of information technology, while improving their companies' bottom lines.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, the two top execs yesterday reinforced corporate commitments to digital solutions for enhancing the delivery of medical services.

Bosworth is reaching out to users for advice on the "hard problem" of using Google Search to find and evaluate health care information.

Isn’t it strange that you can find out a lot about a restaurant on the web or about a movie, but not about a doctor? In fact you usually don’t even know who to go to and just accept whoever your general practitioner recommends? You clearly don’t just eat at restaurants other restaurants recommend, even though you might take it into account. Now admittedly there is a difference here. When it comes to food, you know what you like and the worst that can happen is you don’t like it. But when it comes to your health you may not know what is best, and you can’t necessarily tell if we’re getting the best possible care. Still, here is a common situation: You’ve been diagnosed. Your primary care physician and you have discussed it and it is clear that you need a specialist and your doctor has referred you to one, but you’re wondering how you know who is the best out there for you. How do you know whether they cover your insurance? How do you find them? Today, often you just take your doctor’s referral.

Menzer is making a $1 million Wal-Mart commitment to create a University of Arkansas and Blue Cross Blue Shield research center "aimed at identifying and addressing gaps and roadblocks in the application and delivery of health information technology, and replicating proven applications that are working to benefit patients and providers":

The goal of the Center for Innovation in Health Care Logistics will be to put the right materials in the hands of doctors and nurses where and when they need them; It also aims to eliminate the threat of medical errors arising from wasteful and unreliable practices in health care supply networks.

The Center's work will help fill a large information gap in the health care system. "The best example of this need was Huricane Katrina. Medical records, entire family histories, were gone in an instant, and the entire region is still recovering from this massive loss of information."

The "always low-prices" Wal-Mart wants information technology-based systems to bring "visibilty and tracking to every level of health care procurement and distribution":

Experience shows that such transparency leads to significant cost savings by eliminating duplication and confusion, enhancing collaboration among participating organizations and avoiding mistakes that can lead to dangerous errors.

The "organize the world's information" Google wants individual, dedicated online databases to record and store personal data pertianing to "every single medical and health-related event" for effortless retrieval and sharing, as Bosworth evangelized last December, a Google Health URL.

What else do $144 billion market cap Google and $194 billion market cap Wal-Mart want to accomplish in the high-stakes, big money health care market?


$4 generic prescription program in all of its U.S. pharmacies,
Dossia organization to provide framework for private electronic personal health records,
"Better Health Care Together" campaign for "four common sense principles for achieving a new American health care system by 2012."


We have tried to enlist the help of the health community to help us know which links contain medically reliable information, sift these reliable links so that they tend to show up relatively earlier in the search results, and then let you decide which groups in the health community you trust. If you go to Google and type in [Lipitor], for example, and then you click on the “For patients” link and look carefully, you’ll see that the search results often include at the bottom the word “Labeled By,” followed by words like NLM and HON. NLM stands for the National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library, and HON stands for Health on the Net Foundation, an organization which is in the business of certifying web sites with health content that is reliable. These are organizations that have marked the part of the web that this link in the search results points to as medically reliable. It seems that we at Google may not have done a great job of making this clear enough. Unfortunately, many of you either don’t notice these words when you’re searching about health questions at Google or have no idea what they mean. Clearly, we can do better at making this kind of labeling noticeable.

Lipitor manufacurer Pfizer, and Lipitor resellers, however, have no problem being noticeable at

Liptor official Web site: Number one AdWords position and number one SERP rank,
Lipitor retailers: Seven out of eight AdWords "Sponsored Links" slots.

How much is the pharmaceutical industry estimated to have spent in 2006 on consumer advertising? Over $5 billion.

The market for Electronic Health Records is also pegged at about $5 billion, by 2015, according to Kalorama Information.

Google's interest in the Electronic Medical Records (EMR) market is well-timed.

Bruce Carlson, associate publisher, Kalorama Information:

The best type of market is one with a guaranteed pool of new customers, and that describes the EMR market in the U.S. Budgeted IT spending by healthcare organizations in 2007 and 2008 will create a robust marketplace for both existing players in EMR and new entrants.

If most healthcare entities had already adopted an EMR system, it could be said that current market leaders should remain in their market share positions. But because there is only a 23% EMR adoption rate in the U.S., the current list of top companies may not reflect the list we will see in 2015. (as cited by Healthcare IT News)

Google and Wal-Mart are undoubtedly working their hardest to ensure they will make their respective marks in the multi trillion dollar U.S. health care market well before 2015.

ALSO: Google Health URL trumped by Steve Case? and Microsoft to battle Google in online healthcare and Google’s Ten Commandments

Topic: Health

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  • Right Direction... worried about the parties involved.

    I think that we need something done with health care and being in IT I think that this is a good place to start. I am concerned that while WalMart and Google certainly have the leverage point to accomplish things, that they are not to be the ones driving the boat. Walmart is a great company that focuses on driving costs out of their business, but how do they do that? They armwrestle suppliers (which is their right) into lowballing deals or risk offshore answers. That is fine for retail, but can we off-shore our healthcare?

    I may also have a bit of paranoia, but the idea of two such large and profit focused companies on the data that will determine country wide insurability is not sitting well with me. As pointed out in a recent address, the Health Care Insurance industry has added payroll over the past few years - while the number of insurance covered individuals have declined. So we need more folks to provide service to less insured families (is service finding reasons not to cover things?)- I do not think so, and the plan of a focused database for individual information to "reduce medical errors..." sounds more like a plan to reduce financial errors in the global scheme of things.

    IT can do great things here, I just wish that the clout of Walmart would not come to bear on things before we get our national values squared away first.
  • Where the money goes

    Healthcare Reform is all the talk these days.

    Now if they would just look at where the money goes! Here is an example: I know of a cash-only (no inusrance accepted) practice with 2 physicians and a single assistant. The physicians earn better than average incomes and practice better than average medicine. I have first hand knowledge of a 2 physician (both part time) practice that is 99+% insurance reimbursed. That practice requires 6 support staff, plus an outsourced billing service. Because the patients demand the freedom to not deal with insurance issues, they have to pay someone else to do the work for them. In this case, the work of 5 people plus billing. If you ever go to a 5 star resort, and have 5 people waiting on you, you will see it in your bill. The same thing applies to healthcare. People want to be relieved of responsibility and then complain about paying for it!

    For what it is worth, I imagine almost every doctor would like the freedom to see fewer patients, the freedom from dealing with a quagmire of insurance related issues, freedom from fear of frivolous lawsuits, and freedom from price-gouging vendors.

    An aexmaple of price gouging: a simple ceiling lamp, made of plastic, costs $2500. A metal and vinyl arm rest for an exam table - $450. An EMR program: $75,000 for the first year!

    When your profit per patient may be $5, it takes a LOT of patients to pay for a $75,000 EMR. Squeeze those patients into your schedule somehow, and they all start to complain that the doctor only saw them for one minute. Well, guess what? You demand that the doctor take your insurance, you demand to be seen in a reasonable time, you sue the doctor and staff, the hospital, the bandage manufacturer, the drug company, and the neighbors dog for $10 million. Who pays for all of that- each and every one of us.

    We need health care reform. Perhaps WalMart can get in to the insurance business and slash the absurd overhead. Of course, all the paper pushers in the insurance industry will then be out of work, so the politicians will have to find something for them to do. Maybe send them to IT regulation and oversight... Let us hope not!

  • Focus on Maintaining Health

    If the health industry would put the focus of effort on maintaining health in the first place by emphasizing a wise, healthy lifestyle, we could reduce the tremendous costs of trying to repair the results of a negative lifestyle as well as alleviate much of the suffering associated with surgeries, restorative therapies, and drugs with their associated high costs and debilitating side effects, not to mention the human pathos and emotional suffering from premature suffering and death of loved ones.
  • YAY!!!!

    This is awesome news for consumers. Finally there will be a reason and some considerable leverage to get hardware vendors to produce drivers for Linux. The fact that Dell is going to bat for what people want, may also make software developers take notice of the potential software market for Linux. If it weren't for unavailable drivers and a shortage of certain types of software for Linux, I'd have switched and not looked back years ago. Kudos to Dell for taking the leap. I'll buy one!
    • oops

      I was reading two articles and posted in wrong one. The one this refers to is at
  • It's all about the money

    This is really funny stuff. Wal-Mart has done more to trash the status quo of this countrys economy that any other enity I know of in the last 30 years. And now would you believe just about the time the a majority of the population is nearing the era of retirement and advanced medical need, here comes Wal-Mart with the we have a solutition spiel. Follow the money my friend. And if for some reason you would think that I lack some specific knowledge of some of their inner workings, you'll need to guess again. Google....youth concerned about the public's access to viable information. I appauld you.
  • Walmart