Google Wants To Make You Healthy

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The health care industry is in many ways a Byzantine maze of paperwork and regulations, with the right knowledge not always immediately on hand to the right person at the necessary time.

That needs to change. Google VP Adam Bosworth wrote poignantly of the necessity for improvement in the availability of health care information, a project on which he works. A project that has a more personal meaning to him than the typical application development cycle.

“I’ve been motivated in this field in part by my personal experiences helping to care for my mother, who recently died from cancer after a four-year battle,” Bosworth wrote in an entry appearing on Google’s Official blog.

He discussed the challenges he saw first-hand with the system:

While the quality of the medical care my mother received was extraordinary, I saw firsthand how challenged the health care system was in supporting caregivers and communicating between different medical organizations. The system didn’t fail completely, but struggled with these phases:

•  What was wrong — it took her doctors nine months to correctly identify an illness which had classic symptoms
•  Who should treat her — there was no easy way to figure out who were the best local physicians and caregivers, which ones were covered by her insurance, and how we could get them to agree to treat her
•  Once she was treated, she had a chronic illness, and needed ongoing care and coordinated nursing and monitoring, particularly once her illness recurred

There’s certainly no good time to find out that the information someone needs the most is the least available. Bosworth wants to address that, and noted how Google has started to make forays into improving the ways health care information can be found.

Even without a formal product or service ready, Bosworth said there exists quite a few options for utilizing Google’s current resources now for learning more about health and conditions:

We have already launched some improvements to web search that help patients more easily find the health information they are looking for. Using the Google Co-op platform, Google and the health community have labeled sites and pages across the web making it easier for users to refine their health queries and locate the medical information they need.

Do a search on Google about a medical issue or treatment like diabetes or Lipitor and you’ll see some choices for refining your query, such as “symptoms,” “treatments,” and so on. If you click on “treatment,” your search results are refined and reordered so that sites that have been labeled as being about treatment by trusted health community contributors are boosted in the rankings.

Note that how trusted a contributor is – and thus how much they affect your search results – is dependent both on Google’s algorithms and on who the user decides they trust. For example, if my doctor is a Google Co-op contributor and I indicate to Google that I trust her, then when I search, the sites she has labeled as relevant will show up higher in my search results.

We’ve previously noted how Google helped Dilbert creator Scott Adams diagnose a rare condition that had left several professionals baffled. Maybe Bosworth’s and Google’s future efforts will help you someday, too.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Google Wants To Make You Healthy
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