Google

Daniel GarrettLook at who is entering the New Health Economy: Amazon, with digital health applications; Intel, with a home health gateway; Google, with a fit platform, not to mention the news out of Cupertino last week.

Why? According to the 2013 PwC Global Innovation Survey, nearly half of drug and device companies are focusing on traditional product innovation rather than on breaking their efficacy and safety mold. And the stakes are high: As patients become value-seeking consumers, they want quick and easy technology connections to their health source.

It appears that the biggest barrier to transforming traditional healthcare business is culture. Most (89%) of the drug and device CEOs surveyed by PwC view technological advances as the global trend to follow. Yet three-quarters of these executives cite an inability to grasp new information technologies.

Many of these firms invested heavily in social media in 2012 and 2013, but then retreated, possibly awaiting further guidance from the FDA on what is acceptable conduct for “socializing” with consumers.

In fact, the FDA released draft guidance this spring outlining rules for interactive promotional media, including blogs, social networking sites, online patient forums, and podcasts. Some companies, such as Qu Biologics, already use social media to enhance trial recruitment. Companies can scan social media for information about adverse events related to their products. A recent study showed that social media had three times more adverse-event reports for 23 commonly used prescription medications than the FDA did during the same time period.

Any cultural transformation should begin at home. Although drug and device companies say they value social media as an important accelerator of innovation, the evidence is scant on how these firms use technology to promote internal communications that can better connect employees across traditional silos—from R&D to commercial business units.

Continue reading “Those New Neighbors”

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davidshaywitzAt his yearly CEO summit, noted VC Vinod Khoslaspoke with Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page (file under “King, Good To Be The”).

Towards the end of a wide-ranging conversation that encompassed driverless cars, flying wind turbines, and high-altitude balloons providing internet access, Khosla began to ask about health.

Specifically, Khosla wondered whether they could “imagine Google becoming a health company? Maybe a larger business than the search business or the media business?”

Their response, surprisingly, was basically, “no.”  While glucose-sensing contact lenses might be “very cool,” in the words of Larry Page, Brin notes that,

“Generally, health is just so heavily regulated. It’s just a painful business to be in. It’s just not necessarily how I want to spend my time. Even though we do have some health projects, and we’ll be doing that to a certain extent. But I think the regulatory burden in the U.S. is so high that think it would dissuade a lot of entrepreneurs.”

Adds Page,

“We have Calico, obviously, we did that with Art Levinson, which is pretty independent effort. Focuses on health and longevity. I’m really excited about that. I am really excited about the possibility of data also, to improve health. But that’s– I think what Sergey’s saying, it’s so heavily regulated. It’s a difficult area. I can give you an example. Imagine you had the ability to search people’s medical records in the U.S.. Any medical researcher can do it. Maybe they have the names removed. Maybe when the medical researcher searches your data, you get to see which researcher searched it and why. I imagine that would save 10,000 lives in the first year. Just that. That’s almost impossible to do because of HIPAA. I do worry that we regulate ourselves out of some really great possibilities that are certainly on the data-mining end.”

Khosla then asked a question about a use case involving one of my favorite portfolio companies of his, Ginger.io, related to the monitoring of a patient’s psychiatric state.

Responded Page, “I was talking to them about that last night. It was cool.”

That pretty much captures Brin and Page’s view of healthcare – fun to work on a few “cool” projects, but beyond that, the regulatory challenges are just too great to warrant serious investment.

Continue reading “Google Co-Founders: “Thanks, But No Thanks””

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Google just announced that they are piloting a specific health focused service for Helpouts which apparently is a fully HIPAA-compliant system that allows patients to receive telemedicine from clinical providers.  They are currently partnering with One Medical Group, an “experience-focused” medical practice, which allows patients to “request a Helpout, and typically speak with a physician within 20 minutes. It’s recommended for people with cold and flu symptoms, rashes, or simple infections.”

I love the idea of medicine finally moving away from the clinic and towards a digital future, and in our health system we are currently exploring ways that we can deliver telemedicine to our patients with diabetes.  But to do this effectively, we have to understand the elements needed for a health visit.

Continue reading “#Gchat Medicine?”

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I assume by now that you’ve heard the news: Google wants to tackle aging. Specifically, they announced this week the launch of Calico, “a new company that will focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases.”

Because, says Larry Page, with some “moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives.”

“Can Google Solve DEATH?” shrieks a TIME cover.

Google’s goal, it seems is to find ways to extend human lifespan and essentially stave off aging.

Coincidentally, on the same day Physician’s First Watch directed me towards this NEJM editorial, announcing that NEJM and the Harvard Business Review are teaming up on a project on Leading Health Care Innovation.

Here is the paragraph that particularly caught my eye:

“The health care community and the business community today share a fundamental interest in finding ways to achieve higher value in health care. The ultimate objective for both communities is to keep people healthy, prevent the chronic illnesses that consume a large fraction of our health care dollars, use medical interventions appropriately and only when needed, and create an economically sustainable approach to the delivery of health care. While we want to foster innovation and novel therapies against disease, we also recognize that, whenever possible, prevention of disease before it is established is the better solution.” [Emphasis mine.]

And therein lies the rub. Whether it’s Google or a high-powered partnership between NEJM & HBR, everyone is enamored of prevention and innovative cures.

Let’s prevent those pesky chronic diseases! Let’s cure aging!

Ah, spare me.

Continue reading “Who Will Solve Healthcare For Our Parents And Grandparents? Probably Not Google.”

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I’m a nerd. Instead of watching Hollywood movies, I watched the entirety of Google’s 3.5 hour keynote from their recent developer conference, Google IO. I really appreciate watching and learning from technology companies operating at spectacular scale. They put on quite a show (at least for geeks like me).

One hour and eighteen minutes (the link should take you the right spot in the video) into the keynote, Google executives unveiled new discovery and curation features for the Android Play Store for apps for teachers to use in class. Google hired a team of educational content experts to review and curate in-class apps. Google will release certified apps to a special section of the Android Play Store that educational IT staff and teachers can peruse.

Google will also provide tools for educational IT admins to centrally manage and distribute those apps throughout the school per teacher, class, grade level, and more. Google is dramatically simplifying IT management in large bureaucratic organizations that can’t attract top IT talent. This is a godsend for teachers who have wanted to deploy apps in class, but who haven’t had the necessary IT support.

This is a brilliant concept. In highly regulated, slow changing industries such as healthcare and education, the biggest barriers to adopting and integrating third-party apps into the core workflows are fear of inaccurate information and IT distribution and management challenges. Google is doing a tremendous favor for the educational system. This move will materially improve the uptake of in-class apps.

Obviously, this begs the question, “Why doesn’t Google do the same thing for healthcare?” Happtique and Healthtap recognized this need some time ago. They’re curating apps and providing IT infrastructure services to help manage and distribute those apps to employees along different job functions, roles, locations, etc.

Continue reading “What if Google Does It?”

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This past week, Google had its annual developers conference, Google I/O. One of the more provocative talks, called “The End of Search as We Know It,” was by Amit Singhal, who is in charge of search for Google.

The vision, as described by Amit, is that instead of typing words into a box on a website or mobile app, we will have conversations with Google, enabling a much more personalized, refined experience. The holy grail, of course, is that Google analytics become both predictive and prescriptive, serving you content that is just right for you and anticipates your needs.

It seems there is a race on now to achieve this vision. One could argue that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Pandora and others are all in the same mode. Best I can tell, the promise these companies are floating to advertisers is that their ads will be served up to that focused slice of the population that will find their product relevant in the moment.

If you apply this thinking to healthcare, several controversies/topics come to the fore.

Is Google competing with IBM’s Watson? Undoubtedly yes. On the other hand, I’m guessing Google is disenchanted with the consumer health space after the demise of its personal health record (PHR). And IBM seems to be focused on clinician decision support. So early in the game, with respect to healthcare anyway, maybe there is not much competition. The path for clinician decision support is clear and the market obvious, whereas the path and market for consumer health decision support are blurry.

Continue reading “Is the End of Search the Beginning of Personalized Prevention?”

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A lot of people think Google Glass can be used as a development platform to create amazing healthcare apps. So do I.

Many of these ideas are relatively obvious, and many of them could be relatively simple to develop. But we won’t see most of them commercialize in the first year Glass is on the market. Maybe even 2 years. Why?

The most obvious analogy to Glass is the iPhone. It’s a revolutionary new technology platform with an incredible new user interface. Glass practically begs the iPhone analogy. Technologically, the analogy has the potential to hold true. But economically, it does not. Because of the economics of Glass, many of these great ideas won’t see the light of day anytime soon.

First, there’s the cost. Glass will run a cool $1500 when it lands in the US this holiday season. The most obvious analogy to Glass is the iPhone. It’s a revolutionary new technology platform with an incredible new user interface. Glass practically begs the iPhone analogy. Technologically, the analogy has the potential to hold true. But economically, it does not. Because of the economics of Glass, many of these great ideas won’t see the light of day anytime soon. There’s no opportunity for a subsidy because Glass doesn’t have native cellular capabilities.

Continue reading “The Economics of Google Glass in Healthcare”

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Remember 2009? The H1N1 pandemic we were all waiting for? I do. I was pregnant; H1N1 was particularly risky for pregnant women. The vaccine wasn’t available until after I had my baby, but when they held a clinic an hour north of where I live, I brought my husband there so we could both get our shots. My infant son was too young to be vaccinated, so I wanted to protect him through herd immunity.

study came out recently on twitter messages from that time. How did pro-vaccine sentiments spread, versus anti-vaccine ones? Which messages were more contagious?

I talked to one of the authors, Marcel Salathe, today. He’s an infectious disease researcher studying the spread and transmission, not (just) of disease, but of information. “We assume people infect each other with opinions about vaccinations,” he said, and the H1N1 scare was a good opportunity to put some of his group’s theories to the test.

They collected nearly half a million tweets about the H1N1 flu vaccine. In 2009, H1N1 wasn’t included in the regular flu shot, and became available partway through flu season as a separate dose. With a possible pandemic looming, people had plenty of motivation to get the vaccine and encourage others to get it—butanti-vaccine sentiments were in circulation too.

The result, striking but perhaps not surprising: negative opinions were more contagious than positive ones. (Specifically, someone who read a lot of anti-vaccine messages was more likely to follow up by tweeting or retweeting negative messages of their own.)

Continue reading “Twitter Study of Vaccine Messages: Opinions Are Contagious, But In Unexpected Ways”

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I want to begin by sharing well-known information for the sake of comparison. Both the Apple and Google Android platforms welcome the introduction of new and (sometimes) highly valuable functionality through plug-n-play applications built by completely different companies.

You know that already.

Healthcare IT companies welcome you to pay them great sums of money for enhancements to their closed systems. This is on top of substantial maintenance fees that may or may not lead to hoped-for updates in a timely fashion. (With all due respect to the just-announced CommonWell Health Alliance, Meaningful Use does mandate interoperability. The participants are, in effect, marketing what they have to do anyway to try to differentiate themselves from Epic.)

The respective results of these two divergent approaches are probably also familiar to you.

Consumer technology has taken over the planet and altered almost every aspect of our lives. These companies and industries have flourished by knowing what customers will want before those same customers feel even a faint whiff of desire. We are both witnesses to and beneficiaries of dazzling speed-to-solution successes.

Back on planet health IT, the American College of Physicians reports that the percentage of doctors who are “very dissatisfied” with their EHRs has risen by 15 percent since 2010; in a poll, 39 percent said they would not recommend their EHR to colleagues and 38 percent said they would not buy the same system again.

I will argue that the difference between health IT and every other progressive, mature industry is the application of open source, open standards and, most importantly, open platforms. These platforms supporting interoperability and substitutability have enabled Apple and Google—and NOAA weather data, the Facebook Developer Platform, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, Twitter, eBay, etc.—to drive innovation and competition instead of stifling it. They have created markets where everyone wins—the client, the application developer and the platform company.

The keys to open platforms are application programming interfaces (APIs) through which a platform-building company (i.e., Apple, Google) welcomes the contributions of clients and other companies. The more elegant the API, the more it can support true interoperability.

Continue reading “Beyond HIT Operability: Open Platforms Are Key”

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Google’s informal corporate slogan is “Don’t be evil.” Whole Foods is a Fortune 500 company with a net revenue of 10 billion dollar that prides itself on a commitment to social responsibility. Both companies have pledged to do long-term good in the world, even at the expense of short-term gains, and both are wildly successful.

If corporations can be profitable as a result of their commitments to social justice and corporate ethics, why can’t this doctrine be extended to the pharmaceutical industry? Someday, a company called GoodPharma might reach the Fortune 500 on the basis of a pledge to improve access to medicine, conduct international research trials in accordance with the highest standards of research ethics, engage in research on orphan diseases, publish negative research findings, promptly report information about adverse effects, and generally act as a model for ethical industry practices. If this business model hasn’t been explored, it should be.

Continue reading “Google, Whole Foods, and … Big Pharma?”

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