Sunday, April 15, 2007

What Google Health Might Look Like

Google Vice President, Adam Bosworth asks the following question over at the Google Blog -- How do you know you're getting the best care possible? Note: At the end of his post he asks to hear from you.

Those interested in seeking improved health care information online and becoming more engaged (and knowledgeable) in their own health care will find his post interesting. It also might shed some light on Google Health. For example, Bosworth talks about how do you know what online medical information is reliable? Are you getting the best standard of care? I would add to the list of his questions -- can I know what I am going to have to pay before I receive the care? what health care provider can provide me with the most economical health care?

The post highlights what I see as the need for "us" as patients to be become better advocates for ourselves when visiting a health care professional for treatment. More individuals are faced with the question of care vs. cost which has lead to patients being more active consumers of health care. As more and more of the costs of health care are shifted to individuals the resulting outcome is that those individuals have been forced to take a more active role in trying to manage their health care and the associated costs.

Technology is finally allowing health care consumers (and physicians) to free themselves from the historic systems of the industry. Health consumers are starting to use technology to take an interest in understanding their condition, seeking support from others, managing the care and conditions, monitoring payment and cost, finding the best physician, diagnosing themselves, seeking cheaper/faster care, monitoring the public health conditions and otherwise looking online for their health care needs and wants. It will be interesting to see what impact the political climate of 2008 will bring to this discussion. Update: I've linked to some of the smaller health 2.0 companies experimenting in the health sector. Today I noticed that Matthew Holt, one of my favorite health care policy bloggers, speculates a bit on which large lady will chant, WebMD, Google, Revolution Health or Microsoft. Today's NY Times features Revolution Health as it readies for its official launch this week.

Mr. Bosworth addresses a point that I have often discussed with others -- how do you and I as patients find out who best to treat us? What doctor is best suited to treat my needs based on numerous factors. Mr. Bosworth poses this question -- "what does 'best' really mean?" Maybe I'm a more conservative patient or a patient who desires a more aggressive approach requiring surgery. How does search account for such subtleties. Different doctors take different approaches to these types of patients. My on experience is that I start with my primary care doctor's recommendation (or another trusted source) - but often there is no way to confirm the recommendation. I'd like to back up this information with more detailed information.

Bosworth's post also discusses Google's "labeling" feature (not sure what this feature is - I ran a Google search trying to find out more info about the feature but don't see anything). Mr. Bosworth concurs that the "labeling" feature needs to be highlighted and explained better by Google.

Also, an interesting stat that I noticed while reading Mr. Bosworth's wikipedia entry. A survey of 1,000 people found that 12% first turn to Google to learn about a medical problem. For other interesting stats from the survey check out, More people consult Google over health.

Also, on a related note -- for an insiders view of how Google is learning about the how to share data without revealing private information check out Privacy Preserving Data Mining by Shahid Shah, The Healthcare IT Guy. Shahid takes the logical step of thinking how Google might apply this type of learning in the health care industry.

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