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How Google+ Could Transform Healthcare & Medicine


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a small group of people vehemently against sharing personal details with Google, but in our view the benefits outweigh the risks. Just as with Wikipedia, those who input the data will not be the only ones to share the benefits. We believe that sharing personal health information can be done in a responsible way, and people will be happy to help build resources and contribute to studies that prove beneficial and essential for healthcare and medicine. HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) will offer further protections.

2. Set up a personal health page for Google+ users

We propose that Google integrate a personal health record page into the Google+ platform. Here, users could privately—repeat: privately—enter data about medications, conditions, and various other health metrics. Even if individual personal health pages were filled less than completely, a user base of hundreds of millions could lead to meaningful trends. Users may find benefit by becoming better informed about their health, but that may not be enough. Users may also want a piece of the new revenue streams created when Google provides these trends and data sets to pharma, academia, healthcare providers and, dare we say, insurance companies.

Health data could potentially be user-authorized to be privately shared with doctors and family through the Google+ platform. Users could also access support from focused groups of peers, a more valuable resource than the most encyclopedic search. As discussed in the epilogue of the recent, nearly-up-to-the-minute history of Google, In the Plex by Steven Levy, Google realizes it needs more than search algorithms to fall back on as it takes on Facebook.

Image courtesy skreened.com

3. Leverage the power of user-submitted data

Google may be able to aid with Phase IV studies and recruitment, given the potential for data aggregation and a user base exceeding that of large healthcare providers such as Kaiser Permanente. Phase IV studies gather information on patient response to already-marketed therapies, such as Biogen Idec’s highly efficacious multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri. In a small subset of patients, Tysabri causes deadly brain infection called multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). Biogen Idec is conducting a 5-year, 5,000-person Phase IV study to figure out ways to predict those at risk for infection.

Recently, user-submitted data from the network made its way into a groundbreaking study published in Nature Biotechnology that refuted the use of lithium as an effective therapy for Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). PatientsLikeMe, an online health social network and personal health resource, sees this study as only the beginning.

By creating a portal for personal diagnostic and biometric data, Google can start to follow in the footsteps of PatientsLikeMe. Say a patient on Warfarin is  … Next Page »

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