Those that know me know that my last job before I went out on my own as an entrepreneur was with UnitedHealth Group working in their EDI Services division. While I was there I was following the interest Google had in Health Care with great curiosity. UnitedHealth Group (UHG) had many products Google could compete with, and perhaps at a better level. Google for the moment lacks a good, targeted audience in which to tap into the vast advertising money that could be provided by Pharmaceuticals and other Medical industry players. There is huge money in these areas of advertising, and I’m sure Google sees this as an opportunity (see the previous link – Google is definitely thinking about Health advertising!) they haven’t yet tapped into.
Today, Google launched the beta of their new Google Health product. Google Health competes right alongside UnitedHealth’s “Personal Health Histories” that they have provided to their customers. It allows you to easily provide your login credentials to about 20-30 HealthCare and Pharmaceutical providers, and import information from those providers into your Google Health Account. Not only that, but you can manually track health conditions and history of Doctors visits, medicine you are taking, hospital trips, and more, all through a simple login through your Google authentication credentials. All relying on the vast resources of hosting facilities and System Administrators protecting your data which Google has capability to provide.
Starting with Personal Health Histories, Google has the potential to do what UnitedHealth Group and others have been doing, but on a much larger, and unified scale. I would be willing to guess that a large majority of the internet has a Google account of some sort right now – imagine the possibilities!
For instance, what if Google were to integrate Google Calendar support into their interface? You could begin, just by importing your current medications, to receive alerts via text message and Google Calendar, reminding you to take your medication. Or perhaps your Doctor could integrate with Google Health to provide you with reminders and calendar entries of future appointments, as well as remind you when a Physical is due.
We’re just getting started though – now let’s take into account what Google is really good at – search. The project I was in charge of at UnitedHealth Group involved matching records between payers (the insurance companies) and providers (the doctors), an art that, thanks to our great government and the many rules and regulation they have already put into place but don’t follow themselves (called HIPAA), proved quite difficult. Many Insurance companies are making money off of this disunity and flaws in our Government’s system. Imagine if Google were to get into this game and start adding their own indexing algorithms to your medical records. In essence, Google themselves could become a “Clearing House” (a term in the Health Industry for basically a proxy/interpreter between payers and providers), sifting through claims and payments, matching them, and showing your bills, all through Google Health.
Imagine if your Doctor and your Health Insurance provider both join up to Google Health. All of the sudden, the two entities can understand each other and fewer errors will occur. Fraud will become less prevalent, and new standards will be established (if you call “Google” a standard). Ideally, your health care will become cheaper – I can see Doctors giving a discount if you maintain a Google Health Account because they can see more history and communicate with your provider better that way.
Now, imagine this – because Google is not a Insurance provider, they have an unbiased opportunity to show you some very interesting things. For instance, what if they started showing your payment histories to your Insurance provider vs. what the Provider was paying? They could begin to show customers how much more efficient it could be if they just went with a catastrophic insurance plan over their current plan, or how they could save money by just maintaining a Health Savings Account instead of paying a premium every month that goes nowhere. I can really see the potential of the Health Insurance companies getting cut out of the picture with the moves Google is making. Forget Universal HealthCare – Google will universalize it for us!
If Google can get their privacy issues out of the way, what if Google provided an opportunity to add in OpenSocial Support, allowing you, per privacy settings you set, to show the health histories of those you are related to (I can’t think of any reason to show this to just friends, but maybe you can). What if they provided a secure API to this, allowing other vendors, like Family History sites to have access to the data? Soon you’ll be able to track the health of your ancestors, and perhaps even track genetic reasons for the health issues you are having. I really think the possibilities are endless!
I think Google is onto something here – it is obviously another play in their world domination scheme, but with the position they have, why not? Maybe it’s the Libertarian in me, but Google may just revolutionize the Health Care Industry, without a need to turn to government here.