frog: Google Health Fails To Bring Meaning To Data

frog: Google Health Fails To Bring Meaning To Data

The creative team of frog design collaborated in this post to look critically at the future of health services and compile a list of how industry experts can learn from the falls of Google Health.

  • 30 june 2011

When Google announced Friday that it was pulling the plug on Google Health, we received dozens of calls asking, “If Google can’t make it in health, who can?”  But we actually think we should be looking at Google’s failure as a strong sign of where the electronic medical record (EMR) and personal health record (PHR) space is headed.  To use the Gartner Hype Cycle reference we are in the “Trough of Disillusionment,” where technology fails to meet expectations and is abandoned.  But, some businesses will persist and continue through the “Slope of Enlightenment” and experiment to understand the true benefits and practical application of the technology for the consumer.  We also think Google’s failure is a confirmation that consumers are finally expecting healthcare products and services to rise to the same level as other industries.  frog finds this in our healthcare research all the time; patients and physicians now expect their PHR/EMR to provide all the intuitive functionality and connectivity as their smart phones and tablets. If they don’t, they won’t adopt these technologies.
Google Health failed on two primary dimensions: failure to create a connected and meaningful solution.

Lack of Connectivity
In healthcare, it’s all about the eco-system. To create a monolithic product, as Google did, instead of building a platform for connectivity, can severely limit the value of the system.  In order to have a holistic perspective on a patient’s health, connection between the physician, hospital, payor and pharmacist is essential.  With Google Health, even the most basic connection between the patient and physician was not enabled since the patient PHR was not integrated with the physician EMR.  It’s a fundamental tenet that productive dialogue occurs in situations of information symmetry, meaning that the dialogue must be based on shared knowledge.  With Google Health this was an extremely narrow platform – the patient and the physician continued to have access to almost mutually exclusive bodies of knowledge.  Broadening the platform is key to a more meaningful patient-physician dialogue.

Sharing between the patient and physician creates symmetry of data-access that builds reciprocal trust and enables efficient and evidence-based interactions. Sharing also expands to friends and family, causing the circle of care around the patient to be empowering and engaging to support them. Patient-to-patient relationships are also crucial as they support learning, and drive motivation and engagement. Any data presentation platform today that ignores the necessity for sharing and dialog is missing out on the biggest value item.
From a business model perspective, adoption by industry players is also essential to achieve scale.  In the case of Google’s venture, there needed to be equal focus on the B2B and B2C elements of the play. Institutional buy-in from large employers, pharmacy chains, insurers and providers is fundamental.  This is basic network theory: the value of a connected system is a power function of the number of connected nodes.  Depending on singular sign ups to ensure critical mass would have taken forever, especially without a strong social component to propagate virally.

Just as the social portion of the experience was not considered, mobility wasn’t integrated either.  frog’s VP of Healthcare Innovation Aimee Jungman was a cancer patient herself recently, and wasn’t accessing her PHR when she was at home at night behind her computer. She needed to access it when she went from physician to chemo to lab.  She also needed to include her most recent lab results so that when she and her physician determined her readiness for chemo, the most recent lab results where available.   Google Health suffered from the lack of basic mobility, as well as the fact that devices and systems that generate data were not directly connected to an individual’s PHR.

Lack of Meaning

But we need to go beyond the lack of connectivity as a reason for Google Health’s failure. It also did not deliver more meaning to the consumer, whether that is the patient or the physician.

The Google Health design was elegant and the solution intuitive, but Google seemed to have forgotten that for the patient healthcare is a narrative, not a bunch of lab results, CAT-scans and tests.  When Aimee was diagnosed with cancer, she knew having a high CA-125 (cancer blood marker) was bad, but she had no idea what that meant in terms of her life.  Was she going to be able to have children? Was she going to be able to continue working? Was she going to survive?  Interestingly enough, she never knew the answers to these questions, but she knew her CA-125 immediately and was tracked religiously against it.  She used the PHR to record her scans and tests, but she told the story of her cancer through email and community sites and shared her progress based on the impact to her life goals.
Healthcare is a system that produces more data than almost any other sector, but uses it with less effect than any of them.  Connectivity alone with its promise of making data available to anyone in the system is not enough if it’s more of the same, unusable and unactionable information.  So what does it mean to create meaning in the system and develop experiences that shape and build empowered, engaged and informed consumers?

frog has developed a list of core tenets that we believe should be integral to any healthcare platform:

•    Be There – Ubiquitous, Shared, Contextual
•    Be Compelling – Action-Oriented, Emotionally Driven
•    Be Real – Familiar, Personal, Resonant and Culturally Relevant
•    Be Transparent – Guiding, Directional and Clarifying, Demystifying

mHealth2= Mobility with Meaning

Let’s re-imagine what an ideal PHR/EMR experience could be that combines connectivity and meaning for the consumer, be it patient or physician.

Be There: Establishing point of care solutions was how hospitals tried to foster physician adoption of the EMR.   This set-up an unempathetic situation, as the patient fearfully described their health issues to a doctor sitting behind a screen.  Ironically, what seems to have gotten lost with all the focus only on connection is that healthcare is about people guiding people, and should be a human-centered industry.  We need to leverage connectivity to better support this idea, rather than distract from it.

For physicians, imagine an EMR solution that connects to the mobile smart phone and tablet devices they use already and integrates seamlessly into their workflow.  The information is available anytime/anywhere so the physician can access the information when they are at home or in the car, instead of when they are with the patient on site.  They can monitor the patient continuously and not just during the visit, so the patient always feels taken care of. Smart and evolving algorithms can be used to flag and prioritize patients that need attention, so that this volume of data supports physicians to allocate their time more effectively, rather than being an additional burden.  For the patient, the information can be visualized in a way that they can understand and is easily sharable to support collaborative decision-making between patient-physician.

(Continue reading here.)

[Written by Eric Bailey, Aimee Jungman, and Thomas Sutton. Reprinted with kind permission from design mind, a publication of global innovation firm frog design.]

design mind is a publication of global innovation firm frog design that is updated daily to keep the design and innovation community updated with fresh perspectives on industry trends, emerging technologies, and global consumer culture. Learn more about design mind and frog design.

Eric Bailey is the Principal Designer at frog design and the founder of Propaganda Design. He works with different industries such as medical, entertainment, and learning, and offers  full-service design solutions through Propaganda Design. He utilizes various aspects of design to strategically develop products for frog design. Learn more about Eric Bailey.

Aimee Jungman runs the Healthcare Innovation Strategy Group at frog design. She focuses on mobile and new media applications in healthcare. She has over 15 years of experience in the development of technology-based medical businesses, many of which have been start-ups such as Scient and RevolutionHealth that went public or were acquired by Fortune 500 companies. She is also on the Board of Directors at The Clearity Foundation. Learn more about Aimee Jungman.

Thomas Sutton is the creative director at frog design in Milan. Originally from New Zealand, he founded the Milan frog design office in order to further his involvement in mobile healthare, medical device development, concurrent engineering, and innovation management. He was recently a featured speaker at the Open Mobile Summit where he stressed the importance of creating an empty space where people can innovate freely to make progress. Learn more about Thomas Sutton.



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