Thursday, August 16, 2007

Google preparing ehealth portal initiative

Google is planning a product that it hopes will overhaul the way patients, doctors, vendors and pharmaceutical companies manage their medical information online. Dubbed the Google Health Scrapbook, the product is in developmental stages now and there is no certainty that it will be launched. Google executives met last week with their counterparts at WebMD in New York to pull them in as a partner for the new online service. They plan to pitch the product to other potential partners in the coming weeks.

The plan, as it stands now, calls for there to be four different directories for each different type of user. The prospect of listing a separate directory for medical devices seems to have been scrapped. Users will be able to log in with their own account information and do things such as add a new medical provider, check their medical records or pay their bills.

The product would also provide information about hospitals such as the frequency that a hospital performs a specific type of procedure or which hospitals perform which procedures most often.

Aside from WebMD, Google is hoping to partner with Intuit on the product. Intuit currently offers consumers a software program that helps them keep track of their medical expenses. The company has already met with the CEO of AllScripts LLC, Glen Tullman, and representatives of Epic Systems Corp., which has signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Involved in the project is Missy Krasner, a project manager who joined Google earlier this year. She was previously a top official in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Adam Bosworth is rumored to be the one directing the company's overall health initiatives.

Google observers who have been expecting a major Google Health initiative to be announced in May were surprised that the company’s health-related release was Google Co-op. Google Co-op is a social search product focused around vertical areas such as health, autos and travel. Its health directory allows users to bookmark interesting pages and add them into the directory, which can then be viewed by others. It also allows users to subscribe to feeds from a variety of sources such as WebMD and the Mayo Clinic.

A Google press official declined to comment specifically on their plans. The press official released this statement: "Health has been an area of interest at Google for some time. We have been doing a variety of research in the health area, including how to improve the quality of health-related search results. Google Co-op is one reflection of that. We continue to look for more ways to benefit our users in the area of health, but we do not have any products to announce at this time. As part of our efforts, we work with many companies in formal and informal ways.”

If the company’s Google Health Scrapbook launches, its health information offering will immediately go far beyond what is currently available to its users via Google Co-op.

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