Tag Archives: EMR

Why Healthcare Needs A “Google Health”

Most people know that Google tried to jump into the healthcare space with Google Health a few years ago.  Google Health was (from Wikipedia):

Google Health was a personal health information centralization service (sometimes known as personal health record services) by Google introduced in 2008 and cancelled in 2011.  The service allowed Google users to volunteer their health records – either manually or by logging into their accounts at partnered health services providers – into the Google Health system, thereby merging potentially separate health records into one centralized Google Health profile.

Personally, if they wanted to build that, they should just go buy Dossia, and they would be there.  Looking backwards, you can read the announcement to cancel Google Health here, and there’s lots of articles out there about why it failed.

While they haven’t had a dedicated health team officially, they continue to have several health related projects:

  1. Helpouts is a video service that is HIPAA compliant meaning it could eventually compete with Teladoc, MDLive, and American Well.
  2. Calico is a newer company focused on aging which has lots of people wondering as they add well known executives to the core team.  
  3. They just came out with their smart contact lens to help diabetics test their blood sugar.
  4. Google has an app called My Tracks and an API to tap into some of the sensors in the phone that could be used for fitness apps.  
  5. Google X staff recently met with the FDA leading to some speculation.  
  6. Of course, there is also lots of discussion about how Google Glass could be used in healthcare.  (I personally think about the Checklist Manifesto as a perfect opportunity.)
  7. And, I would also point to the intelligent home (per their acquisition of Nest) as a venture which will lead them down the path of health at some point.

You could also look at the companies that Google Ventures is investing in from the health space:

I could have easily seen them investing in something like Theranos which stands to change the biometrics space.  

So…it’s not like they’re ignoring the space which isn’t unusual for many companies outside of healthcare.  Healthcare is hard.  Healthcare has lots of regulatory constraints.  In general, many companies want to avoid having to deal with some of those issues which can constrain the rest of their businesses.

But, let’s look at the critical and hot topics in healthcare right now:

  • BigData – how to use data; how to build predictive models
  • Engagement – how to personalize communications and engage consumers to take action from mass customization to segmentation to even gamification
  • Mobile and devices – how to use technology to track your steps, monitor your health, and collect data (see post about why your underwriter wants your mobile data)
  • Social – how to use social pressures and peers to create better health
  • Connectivity – how to connect devices, caregivers, pharmacies, providers, and others into a shared platform for care
  • Security – how to securely manage data
  • Transparency – collecting and aggregating pricing data to help consumers make intelligent decisions
  • User experience – creating user journeys and user interfaces to improve the overall consumer experience (perhaps changing the model like Uber (a Google Ventures investment))

Do those things sound like the competencies of any one company?  To me, they all sound like things that Google is good maybe even great at.  Additionally, the founders of Google have the big, picture and long-term vision that’s critical in healthcare.  Driving change in healthcare isn’t about meeting specific quarterly numbers.  It’s about seeing the world in a new light where you want to drive change and improve things like childhood obesity.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  

I wish I knew more about Google.  Someday, I’d love to work with them on some of these opportunities.  If so, I could see this being a perfect fit in the Google X world.  I could see them making a change as a core focus, as investors, or simply by creating enabling tools.  But, at the end of the day, this is why I think health needs Google to have a focus here.  It’s almost 20% of our GDP and something that impacts most people on a daily basis.  

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If E-Prescribing Doesn’t Have All The Data…Is It Helpful?

This is an interesting dilemma.  At this point, I think everyone is pro e-prescribing even if it’s simply for the benefit of reducing errors.  But, I think the original intent of the solutions were to do a lot more than reduce errors.

The hope was to improve adherence (which I think may have been too lofty).  The idea was that e-prescribing would reduce the abandonment rate at the pharmacy.  I’m not sure picking up a prescription is the same as taking a prescription.  And, taking a prescription once isn’t the same as staying adherent over time.

Another hope was that the use of e-prescribing would drive formulary compliance and increase generic utilization.  The idea was that putting this information in the hands of the prescriber would allow them to make more real-time decisions that were aligned with the consumer’s interests (i.e., lower out-of-pocket spend).  The latest report doesn’t seem to support this at all.  It also echos my prior posts about whether e-prescribing was aligned with pharma at all.

Fewer than half (47.5%) of the 200 PCPs polled said they have access to formulary information when e-prescribing, and fewer than a third said they have access to prior authorization (31.0%) or co-pay (29.5%) information. Among physicians with formulary information access, that information was available 61.1% of the time and was said to be accurate 68.6% of the time.

Physicians with an EMR (54.1%) were more likely to have access to formulary information than physicians without an EMR (29.6%). And differences were seen depending on the EHR vendor: Allscripts physicians (32.2%) were less likely to have access to this information than “All Other” software suppliers (60.5%), Epic physicians (62.5%) and eClinicalWorks (68.8%). 

Another big effort that e-prescribing and integration with EMR was going to have was to push utilization management (UM) to the POP (point of prescribing) rather than having the pharmacy and the PBM dealing with it.  I never really thought this would work.  If the information isn’t there or they don’t trust the information, the prescriber isn’t going to want to deal with this.  It’s already work that they let their staff handle and isn’t something they want to deal with during the patient encounter.

While e-prescribing is definitely here to stay and becoming the norm, the question is whether it’s creating simply a typed “clean” Rx to transmit electronically or whether it’s actually an intelligent process which will enable better care.

Given multiple studies and surveys recently about transparency in healthcare billing and the general push with Health Reform to drive to outcomes, I’m not sure the “dumb” system process can be a sustainable value proposition.


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