Google Healthcare

Several years ago I wrote about the NHS Direct ( website and the assistance it could offer with regards to checking up on any medical symptoms you may experience, without the need to necessarily see a doctor.Over the past years not only has this website been extremely popular, but doctors now regularly encounter informed patients who have ‘Googled’ their symptoms before booking an appointment.Whilst there are concerns about patients developing hypochondria or misdiagnosing themselves, few can argue that this kind of access to medical information isn’t a good thing.It seems therefore fitting that just recently that two of the biggest technology companies, Google and Microsoft appear to be in a position where they can make a significant impact on the healthcare sector.

To take matters one at a time, Google has recently invested in the genetic profiling company ’23 and me’ which is a privately held biotechnology company, which aims to allow people to make sense of their own genetic information.The goal is to provide members of the public with access to secure and accurate information about their own genome, which will not only give you an insight in to ancestry and genealogy but will also allow you to establish inherited traits.To be perfectly honest there is verylimited information on how you would go about getting your genome recorded in the first instance but if the company does succeed, this could be an extremely interesting one to watch.

Microsoft, on the other hand ,have purchased the medical search company Medstory ( which again is a privately held company with a focus on developing search technology designed to allow patients to diagnose their own symptoms.Personally I would have thought this kind of intuitive search technology is something that Microsoft could have easily developed in house using the experience gained by their MSN Search Engine, but I suppose that simply isn’t their style.

It will be interesting to see how either Google or Microsoft plan to make money from these ventures as typically Internet search firms obtain their money through advertising; something very questionable when the subject is health related.I wouldn’t feel comfortable accepting health recommendations from a site that was funded by pharmaceutical companies.I can also imagine some of the weird and interesting pop-up banners that would appear periodically whilst diagnosing myself if this were the case.

In the present day, the impact that these two companies are going to have on what has been affectionately dubbed ‘e-health’ remain to be seen.Microsoft and Google have always had some cracking head on collisions though, so from a business standpoint this could be messy.

While we wait to see what develops there is certainly nothing to stop you trying out the technology available today.If you haven’t yet tried out Medstory or NHS Direct then do take a visit as both resources are completely free of charge and although there will never be a real alternative to a qualified physician, having a reliable source of medical related material can be reassuring from time to time.



About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.