Roni Zeiger, MD, Product Manager at Google and part of Adam Bosworth's health team at Google has this recent post on the difficulty of patients getting the information they need.
I can related to his post, Is there a Doctor in the Family? and his discussion of having "better access" to health information. There is incredible value in having a family member who understands the clinical side of health care. My dad, a retired country doctor in West Virginia, at 83 is still my "primary" resource to discuss health issues and get a valuable second opinion on anything related to my health and the health of our family. When the kids get sick we call him to confirm that the advice given by our pediatrician is accurate. When I had to make decisions on whether or not to have knee surgery - he was my sounding board for the pros/cons. I could give 100 more examples where I or others in my family have relied on him to help interpret health care options, treatments and management of our health.
Dr. Zeiger poses the following question in his post, "When I help my loved ones navigate an illness or get up to date with screening tests, I wonder how those who don't have a doctor in the family manage their health."
The answer: They don't manage their health. Most patients find themselves in a sea of information and at the mercy of a complex system. This is one of the fundamental questions that we as health care professionals need to seek solutions for today. Americans have always been great at mass production and we have taken this same approach to our health system. We produce a lot of health care but it is not individualized or coordinated as well as it could be.
If Google can find a way to become this trusted virtual-family doctor and fill this need the patients and providers will be better off in the future. I'll be interested to hear more from Dr. Zeiger at the Health 2.0 Conference who will be participating on the panel discussion on Search in Healthcare.
Tip to Shahid Shah the Healthcare IT Guy for alerting me to this new Google Blog post dealing with health care in his post Google Planning a PHR?
For more information on the Google Health initiative check out this post over at The Health Wisdom Blog which includes links to Adam Bosworth's recent presentation at the American Medical Information Association's annual convention.
UPDATE (6/21/07): Rita Schwab at MSSPNexus Blog adds an insightful post on the topic of Google as Healthcare Advocate? and what to expect when you navigate the health care system.