Google Aims to Extend Data Mantra into Health Care

Google appears to be extending its data mantra-that they will never hold a user's data hostage-into the medical arena by recently advocating for the use of Google tools to reach computerized medical data.

At Forrester Researchs IT Forum in Nashville on May 16, Google Enterprise Vice President and General Manager David Girouard summed up his companys product development philosophy as, "We will never hold the users data hostage. You can get your data, you can leave. Were always going to do right by the user."

In a move that appears to extend this data mantra into the medical arena, Adam Bosworth, Google vice president, advocated in a May 23 speech for medical information that is both readily available and directly accessible by consumers.

"The vision for the future of health care starts with the premise that consumers should own their own total personal health and wellness data [PHW] and that only consumers, not insurers, not the government, not employers and not even doctors, but only consumers should have complete control over how it is used," said Bosworth in a speech to the 2007 AMIA (American Medical Association of Informatics) Spring Congress.

Bosworth went on to focus on three core principles to unlock this information for consumers: discovery, action and community. He argued that consumers should be able to easily find the health information they need, have immediate access to health care services and learn from those in similar situations.

"… Scared cancer patients could find out how others were tolerating the same medications they were on for the same conditions and how the doctor was. People really care about how they are treated by the doctors. Are they listened to? Is the doctor actually treating them as an adult and understanding their needs? All this could surface," said Bosworth.

Bosworth didnt take long to get into Googles vision for authenticated data, which he insists is necessary for trustworthy shared standardized online computable health data.

Consumers looking for information on a reviews site would be redirected to a CMS (content management system) that would require them to authenticate themselves to access their PHR (personal health records) before returning them to the reviews site. He assures that being logged into their PHR would not compromise the users anonymity on the reviews site.

Bosworth argues that Google has the ideal solution to ensure reliable unambiguous computable medical data through their about-to-be-shipped Auth/Sub (Account Authentication Proxy for Web-Based Applications) solution, which will be used to ensure that a Google user can share a calendar with someone, but not give them access to their documents, e-mail or other calendars.

Bloggers in the health care arena had concerns over what could be lost in the digitizing of medical information.


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"Mr. Bosworth poses this question—what does best really mean? Maybe Im a more conservative patient or a patient who desires a more aggressive approach requiring surgery. How does search account for such subtleties. Different doctors take different approaches to these types of patients," wrote health care lawyer Bob Coffield on

A June 2005 survey of 1,000 people, which found that when faced with a medical problem 12 percent of people turn to Google first, before family, friends, the media or medical encyclopedias. This is seen by many as the news which hatched Googles interest in the medical arena.

The survey, carried out by ICM Health Care for Core-Create, a company that specializes in visual communications for health care clients, found that when all search engines, including Google, were considered, the percentage of consumers who go to the Web first jumped to 21 percent.

Previous to his employment with Google, Bosworth was a vice president at BEA Systems, where he was responsible for the engineering efforts in BEAs Framework Division.

Before that he was a co-founder of Crossgain, a software development firm acquired by BEA in 2001. Bosworth held various senior management positions at Microsoft, including general manager of the WebData group, a team focused on defining and driving XML strategy. He is considered one of the pioneers of XML.


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