Saturday, March 1, 2008

Google Missed the Boat on Health

At the risk of having my blog removed by the very people that host it (OK, I admit it, I have secret fantasies that the upper echelon at Google reads and cares about my blog) I have to say I was disappointed with the Google Health announcement.

Google has teamed with the Cleveland Clinic to create portable health records. The new Google platform uses GData protocol to allow people to store and share their medical records from a central repository. The screen shots of the new platform resemble a Google page to allow the patient to import records, search for information and find resources.

While I cannot argue the utility of being able to have a portable record, nor can I argue the nobility of Google for taking on this cause I can’t help but think they’ve absolutely missed the boat. The truth, as I see it, is that most of the population rarely visits their physician during the year and when they do it’s for a specific problem. While their past medical history is important it is rarely critical or difficult to review verbally. From the provider point of view, we usually make our clinical decisions by listening and examining the patient. The medical record is absolutely necessary but doesn't usually “make” the diagnosis.

I wish that Google had put their efforts into improving access and efficiency in the system. For a lot of the world, it’s not the portability of medical records but access to care that’s at stake. Improving efficiency at the primary care level would go a long way to helping with that cause. Take a look at www.google.com/analytics. When I read my web-statistics there is an amazing amount of data about visitor type, usage, time of day, time on site, and many other demographics. I have long dreamed of having a similar Google dashboard to organize and control patient flow, wait times and treatment delay. Giving clinics the ability to visualize patient flow will help reduce wait times.

Health institutions can afford to have IT, Six Sigma and Lean consultants do this type of work but it’s out of reach for smaller clinics who provide the majority of primary care. It’s not technically easy to do either, because of the disparity in clinic IT systems. If Google applied the same use of programming cookies and central processing to small clinics, dissimilar IT systems could have key performance indicators summarized the same way disparate web sites do. Google’s forte has always been putting information into the hands of the “little guy” so I hope they’ll one day take a look beyond the major health institutions and put some of their computing power into organizing primary care.

1 comment:

Hans Skariah said...

Love the blog Ian, keep up the great work! I've also been running a blog for some time at http://dentaldude.blogspot.com as an adjunct to the practice website http://www.promenadecourtdental.com