I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at what Google is currently doing in healthcare. While Google Health was shut down a long time ago, Google still has an amazing interesting in health and healthcare. Actually, I’m not sure how much Google cares about healthcare, but the Google Founders do seem to care. I call it the Tech Geeks Got Old Effect (ie. They get old and have money they need to spend. So, they spend the money to try and prolong their life.)
By far, the biggest project that Google has announced in healthcare is Calico. They even have a website for the project. However, the website really doesn’t say much. Luckily, the wikipedia page offers a bit more info:
Calico is an independent R&D biotech company established in 2013 by Google Inc. whose goal is to tackle the process of aging. More specifically, Calico’s plan is to use advanced technology to increase understanding of the biology that controls lifespan, and to use that knowledge to increase longevity. The company is led by founder & CEO Arthur D. Levinson, who is the current chairman of Apple Inc. as well as the former chairman of Genentech and was on the board of directors of Hoffmann-La Roche. The name Calico is shorthand for California Life Company. Arthur Levinson had posted he and four others were principal in Calico on Google+. Those four people mentioned were: Robert Cohen, Hal V. Barron, David Botstein and Cynthia Kenyon. Three of the four named are or were previously affiliated with Genentech.
In Google’s 2013 Founders’ Letter, Larry Page described Calico as a company focused on “health, wellbeing and longevity.”
The thing I like most about Calico is that it seems like they understand the need to mix scientists, programmers, medically trained personnel, and more in order to solve many of the really challenging problems we face in healthcare. We’d love to think that one programmer in a garage at a computer could solve things, but my guess is that the next big change in healthcare will come from a scientist, programmer, data scientist and medical professional in a garage. I guess Calico doesn’t have the garage, but I like the cross disciplinary approach to the problems.
I’m hopeful they’re successful in their mission since I’m getting old as well. I think their goals are quite ambitious and so I think they’ll likely fail in the stated goals, but still do some amazing good along the way. That’s fine. I have a feeling that’s why Calico’s goals are so ambitious.
The other major project that Google’s doing in the healthcare space is Google Fit. I was and am still skeptical of Apple Health and it’s possible impact on healthcare. I’d say the same things about Google Fit. I’m not suggesting that either will be a massive flop. I think they’ll gain some traction and provide some benefit to a few people. However, I don’t see Google Fit as the transformative platform that Google and Apple want their solutions to be. Healthcare is much more complex than they realize and I don’t think either company wants to dive deep enough into healthcare to really make a massive change in how we view healthcare.
The #1 Google product for healthcare is actually something we probably take for granted. That’s the Google search results themselves. I know my wife has turned to Dr. Google plenty of times when her, my children or myself come down with something. Is this right or wrong? It doesn’t really matter. It’s just the reality. The quality of Google’s health search results could have as big of an impact on healthcare as almost any other healthcare company. That’s a really big deal and something that Google probably doesn’t even realize.