By Rich Whalley* and Steve Dickman
What could Google do if it had access to everyone’s health data?
You’re probably already thinking a few things:
- There’s no way I’m giving Google my personal health data.
- Didn’t Google already try to do this with Google Health?
- Won’t this take the “don’t” out of Google’s “don’t be evil” motto?
But bear with us. Imagine a healthcare system 10 years in the future that would make Obama proud.
I go to the doctor and find out that I’m at risk for developing type II diabetes and need to craft an effective set of measures to minimize my risk. I find out that there are multiple recommended approaches, including preventative medicines. We log in to my Google+ health data page and go through the extensive record of my diet, lifestyle and exercise data, as well as my genome. From this, we determine how my response is likely to compare to that of the average person at risk for diabetes.
Even if Obamacare is ultimately upheld, it’s hard to imagine that the government alone is capable of unifying and analyzing all this data through the implementation of electronic health records. A better solution may come from the private sector, where all the necessary tools are already developed. As we know from Wikipedia, the most comprehensive, cost-effective data sets often come from user-generated data.
In comparison to Wikipedia, and Google+, Google Health was never positioned to gain a large enough user base. Google Health also lacked the right social tools to become popular enough to generate anything like “big data.” Google+, by contrast, will likely gain mass adoption because of the Gmail user-base and Google’s recent moves in the smart phone space. Google’s core strengths—aggregate data analytics, Web app and smartphone integration—give it the inside track to become the ultimate user-generated health resource.
But how to proceed? Letting it grow organically might ultimately lead to a flop the way it did with Google Health. Instead, we have a few suggestions to take on and neutralize the privacy issue and grow via a clever acquisition. That way, Google can realize its full potential as a neutral data gatherer and let its users benefit from the analysis.
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*Rich Whalley 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.