Have you heard of Google Fiber? If you haven’t, don’t worry. You most likely don’t have it in your city yet. I only heard about it last week, with the announcement that Provo, Utah (where I live) would be getting it.
After reading more about it, both my husband and I were so excited…so much so, that we’ve considered extending our time in Provo a little bit longer. But I also starting thinking about how Google Fiber could help transform healthcare. From what I understand, hospitals and schools in the cities where Google Fiber is implemented will have access to Internet that has a speed of 1 GB, which, to put it simply, is crazy fast.
Having experienced the speed (or lack thereof) of the Internet at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center here in Provo, I was just thrilled to hear they would be able to have faster Internet. After talking with a nurse at my son’s doctor’s appointment today, whose office is on the campus of UVRMC and will likely get the 1 GB of high speed Internet, I could tell that the hospital was very excited about this announcement. This made me start to wonder about what effect Google Fiber might have on Healthcare, so I did some Googling to see what others had to say about it.
Google Fiber has been announced in two other cities — Austin, Texas, and Kansas City, Kansas. There was a panel discussion just a few days ago, put on by Austin Health Tech, discussing what Google Fiber could mean for Austin’s healthcare technology scene. I haven’t been able to track down what was discussed, but I’m sure it would be interesting. I did, however, read this article about Google Fiber and the possibility of High Speed Health. Apparently, Kansas University Medical Center has already developed three pilot programs that will be using Google Fiber’s network in the community. These programs include:
- Virtual care of teens in their homes
- Support for caregivers of people with dementia
- Consulting and training at risk families through Project Eagle
Barbara Atkinson, Dean of KU’s School of Medicine, was a facilitator at a meeting discussing the possibilites of Google Fiber and healthcare last year. She said,
We’ve done some thinking about how much patient care could be done from hospital to home. Things like managing some chronic diseases — heart failure or something like that — if you have real high-definition teleconferencing and really good, simple machines that could be in people’s homes, you could manage many things. You really could cut health care costs by doing it that way, rather than having readmissions for [things like] health failure.
Reading this made me wonder if Google Fiber might make it even more possible for the smartphone physical that was demonstrated at TEDMED to become a standard practice. Even for those in the cities that have Google Fiber that don’t want to pay the monthly fee for the 1 GB of high-speed Internet will have free access to up to 5 MB of speed. People will have more access to the Internet than they have ever had before.
The article also quotes Dr. Sharon Lee, head of Southwest Boulevard Family Health Care, as saying that Google Fiber “holds promise for improving the level of care at her primary care clinic.” She believes that having the extremely high speed network available to her will give her “access to a quick way to communicate with other providers,” in ways like uploading and sending x-rays quickly from her clinic over to other specialists, which would allow for real-time evaluations.
Another article talked about a brainstorming session that took place last year in Kansas City, where it was suggested that children on home ventilators, elderly patients or others who cannot travel easily would be able to be seen via remotely because of the high-speed Internet connection. This bounces off the same ideas that Barbara Atkinson discussed as well.
It’s fun to think about the implications Google Fiber could have on mHealth. I could see more doctors wanting to use tablets and smartphones in their offices, especially if they know they will have a reliable (and fast) Internet connection. What effect do you think Google Fiber could have on the future of healthcare?