Google Health 2018: Best Case Scenarios
By Jack Powers
Published: May 27, 2008
ANALYSIS Google Health organizes a patient's diverse medical data into a coherent on-line personal health record (PHR). At base, it's a simple convenience, good record-keeping for important information that puts the patient in control of his own data. But as the growth of the World Wide Web has shown, standardized digital information -- cheaply networked, easily accessible, interoperable and extensible -- is the foundation for great new ideas, disruptive applications and boundless innovation. Looking ahead a decade of Internet time, here are a few possible applications.
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Cafe Kara links her Starbuck's card to her Google profile to keep track of her daily caffeine, milk and sugar intake. Her on-line grocery store updates nutrition data from her weekly grocery order, and American Express logs the calories, fat and protein counts for her restaurant purchases -- plus the alcohol totals from her bar tabs.
Bicycle Bob's wristmounted fitness computer reports his heart rate and cycling cadence to his gym's wellness network which maintains his customized fitness profile and updates it daily to his Google Health file. Bob can correlate his workouts to his baseline -- resting heart rate, calories burned, training intensity -- and his doctor can watch if he's overtraining. He logs in from his mobile phone to see if he can afford the extra calories from the chocolate cake at dinner, and he links his fitness stats to his Facebook page to show off to members of his runners group.
Curious Jean links her commercial DNA analysis to her Google account. The DNA service identifies risk factors in her Google profile. Her doctor uses the genetic data to derive the appropriate personal dose of her arthritis medication. When researchers identify a new genetic marker for a disease, she gets an email update if it's applicable.
The Turner Twins' immunization records are forwarded to their school each September. Throughout the year, their schoolmates' anonymized records are linked to the school to keep track of ear infections, strep throat, lice and sports injuries. Schools publish aggregate wellness data to attract new students, and education watchdogs lobby for funding based on overall student health indices.
The Columbo Family's vacation plans change when their on-line travel service notices that their original destination would be at peak season for their youngest son's allergies. Their airline checks the family's immunizations and suggests supplements for the new destination. And after the Columbos return, an email notes that a passenger three rows back was just diagnosed with Avian Flu, so the family should seek medical care.
Ready to take their relationship to the next level, lovers Romeo and Juliet share STD status reports through their Google Health accounts. If things get serious, they'll open up their entire files to each other and compare genetic data when contemplating children.
Grandma Grace's home eldercare network streams status reports to the family's Google file, and her doctor visits, tests and home health aide's reports and are filed as well. Authorized family members look in from time to time and receive email notifications when Grandma's worsens or special attention is needed.
Trader Ted shops for insurance by selectively releasing his Google Health record on-line. He pays for regular care through a Health Savings Account, but health insurance companies bid for his catastrophic coverage based on his authenticated medical history, diet and exercise records.
Anonymized Google Health data is mined by Pleasantville public health officials to chart wellness patterns and develop health policy. Everyone in town can log onto the Pleasantville Public Health Dashboard and measure their health status against the town averages.
Boomer Brian gets an email from a teaching hospital: his health profile matches a new study target. Can the hospital get a copy of his June MRI and use his anonymized health profile? The researchers save time and the cost of new scans, and Brian gets a free T-shirt.
Privacy concerns, government regulations, entrenched power relationships and comfortable custom are usually no match for Internet empowerment. As healthcare consumerism pushes patients to take charge of their health profiles, the inevitable mixture of good ideas and bad, of innovation and quakery, will challenge us all to find the right path to good health.
We covered some Worst Case Scenarios in another article. (Subscribe to the IN3 Network mailing list for updates.) \\