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How Google+ Could Transform Healthcare & Medicine


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using a Google+ enabled blood pressure monitor. The data from the blood pressure monitor could be tagged with certain information from the personalized health record, anonymized and sent to a central database for correlative analysis. The PatientsLikeMe website (screenshot below) shows user-reported data on the efficacy of Gabapentin for treating various symptoms. Now imagine predicting efficacy of therapies by finding correlations with genomic data: a personalized medicine revolution, fueled by the patients themselves.

Self-reported data to fuel the personalized medicine revolution (PatientsLikeMe Gabapentin Treatment Report, August 2011. Screenshot courtesy PatientsLikeMe)

4. Acquire PatientsLikeMe

Google+ could benefit from a framework to allow patients to gain insight into their own health through data analytics on aggregate data. PatientsLikeMe has already done the legwork in developing novel health analytics tools and a huge and growing dataset. A PatientsLikeMe acquisition would ensure that Google would hit the ground running; new users would already have access to insightful health information.

In April, 2011, PatientsLikeMe opened its site to all comers, healthy or not. Now over 1000 diseases are represented there. But we think that the lack of incentive for adoption by healthy people will make it tough for the site to keep expanding its user base at high rates. If the platform is integrated into Google+, the number of users could grow to an astonishing level. Assuming that Google+ gains a user base of millions of people, aggregate data on basic biometrics could allow very interesting trends to emerge. If only 0.1% of Google users take advantage of the platform, that would make it much larger than PatientsLikeMe is today.

PatientsLikeMe’s business model (Screenshot courtesy PatientsLikeMe)


We suspect that when Google Health went dark, its engineers did not lose their jobs. Instead, they may have been integrated into a project with much bigger ambitions, namely Google+. Google’s large user base provides the key to allow platforms like PatientsLikeMe to expand further than they could have otherwise, and thereby provide greater benefit to patients and doctors alike.

At last year’s Partners HealthCare Personalized Medicine Conference at Harvard Medical School, we still remember a resounding frustration in the air that there was no way to turn personalized medicine and healthcare into a concerted effort between physicians, healthcare providers, patients, government, pharma, biotech, insurance and academia. A user-driven, shared data platform could bring it all together, and Google may be able to show the way forward.

Rich Whalley (rwhalley@cbtadvisors.com) is an associate at CBT Advisors, a boutique consulting firm in Cambridge, MA. Rich graduated from MIT in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry.

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