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Google’s Efforts in Healthcare

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.

November 20, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Thirty-Five Percent of Americans Consult Internet For Health Information

Every  morning before I get out of bed, I look at all the headlines on my news widget. The last section I usually look at is the health news. Today, a headline caught my attention — it said something about thirty-five percent of American adults consult “Dr. Google” to diagnose illness. This definitely sounded like something up my alley, so I read it, and wanted to share the information here.

I couldn’t find the article that I originally read, but this one from CBSNews.com provided the same information. Just today, findings from The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project were published. Here are some of the most interesting findings:

  • 59 percent of adults using the Internet have looked online for health info in the past year
  • 35 percent have sought out information online, specifically trying to diagnose theirs, or someone elses’, medical condition
  • After apparently finding out what their condition was online, 46 percent felt they should seek help from a health provider, 38 percent felt they could treat it at home, and 11 percent said it was in between.
  • 41 percent had a doctor confirm the condition, thirty five percent didn’t consult a physician, and 18 percent were corrected by their physician on what the condition was.

I thought this was all pretty interesting. The study also found that women are more likely to look information up online about health. That sounds about right to me — I don’t think my husband has EVER looked up something about a medical condition online, while I probably do every other day.

I think the fact that almost half of those that looked up information were able to have the condition they “diagnosed” themselves with confirmed with a physician shows how information found online is getting better. The authors did say this though, about these findings:

It is important to note what these findings mean — and what they don’t mean. Historically, people have always tried to answer their health questions at home and made personal choices about whether and when to consult a clinician. Many have now added the internet to their personal health toolbox, helping themselves and their loved ones better understand what might be ailing them. This study was not designed to determine whether the internet has had a good or bad influence on health care. It measures the scope, but not the outcome, of this activity.

What I think this study does show, however, is that it’s now more important than ever to make sure there’s good, reliable information out there for people to consult. A decent percentage of the people surveyed didn’t seek medical attention after their self-diagnosis, and it would be unfortunate if someone got incorrect information and really did need to see a doctor.

If anything, I’m just happy to see that there are others who consult Dr. Google as much as I do!

January 16, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.