I was at the Googleplex Monday morning for a briefing on GOOG's improvements in search, and more importantly, the official roll out of Google Health.
Google had invited representatives some of the largest medical establishments and medical service providers to talk about the service.
The approach is very interesting and it solves several key problems in being able to integrate health data from multiple sources. The solution: have the individual do it.
The current regulations are designed to protect people's privacy so sharing medical data is very difficult. But if the individual does it and then allows others access to it, much of this problem is solved. Plus Google Health users can share and send their data abroad. Anyone for MyIndianMD.com?
Some of the MDs at the event said Google Health could reduce health care costs because tests won't have to be repeated. And individuals could choose not to have expensive and ineffectual procedures just because their doctors are trying to cover their legal
One problem with this approach however, is that the individual is being asked to make choices which their doctors would be best at making but because of legal and other issues, they cannot. Similarly, Google has to be careful not be providing medical advice. GOOG says it provides users with "choices and options."
I spoke with Martin Harris, M.D and Chief Information Officer at Cleveland Clinic, one of the beta test partners for Google Health. He said that one problem was that computer literate users would be the first to benefit. "It's part of what I call the Internet divide," he said. "Ideally we should be able to let people access their Google Health accounts through their TV set top box or through the phone. That will come soon."
I spoke with a couple of people on the Google Health team and they said users would in the future be able to designate "delegates" to administer their Google Health records on their behalf so that the elderly could have their families help them.
The potential business opportunites for Google are enormous.
Pharma is already pumping billions into marketing drugs on TV and radio and magazines. On Google Health it can target those ads like never before. Will pharma pass on its savings in marketing to customers? Probably some savings would be passed on but it could get away with keeping most of the rest especially since the companies have limited monopolies on key drugs.
Then there are the billions of dollars spent on a variety of medical services, which Google can help target to those people that need those services. Pharma and the rest of the healthcare business is a massive business opportunity for Google.
And there will be probably be some good opportunities for a range of third party business services to be built on top of Google Health because of it's open API. Google for example, is offering an application that allows people to monitor how much they walk and it will give $100k to charity as an incentive.
I can think of linking gym machines to my Google Health record, what I ate that day, even what I ate at a restaurant automatically uploaded with calories and vitamin info. How much I slept, etc. This could become many people's home page.
I can think of social problems too if insurance companies or employers seek permission to view health records and discriminate against those that don't provide access. What about potential spouses opening their hearts . . . and their Google medical records to each other?
All in all, Google Health is GOOG's most significant business launch since AdWords/AdSense text ad links, imho.
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Please see: Google Health launches; Read the terms of service