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Dr. Google – Or at Least a WebMD Replacement

Posted on June 21, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We’ve all heard the talk about Dr. Google and how it’s the first place many of us reach out to with are various medical issues. Well, Dr. Google (my term, not there’s) is stepping up their game even more with their most recent announcement. Here’s an excerpt of the changes to a Google search for symptoms:

So starting in the coming days, when you ask Google about symptoms like “headache on one side,” we’ll show you a list of related conditions (“headache,” “migraine,” “tension headache,” “cluster headache,” “sinusitis,” and “common cold”). For individual symptoms like “headache,” we’ll also give you an overview description along with information on self-treatment options and what might warrant a doctor’s visit. By doing this, our goal is to help you to navigate and explore health conditions related to your symptoms, and quickly get to the point where you can do more in-depth research on the web or talk to a health professional.

Lest you think this is just Google, they have worked with some actual doctors on their results:

We worked with a team of medical doctors to carefully review the individual symptom information, and experts at Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic evaluated related conditions for a representative sample of searches to help improve the lists we show.

Although, Google did follow that up with a big disclaimer that they’re just a source of information and that it shouldn’t replace consulting a doctor for medical advice. Yeah, Google’s not quite ready to take on the liability of actually giving medical advice. So, take their results with that grain of salt.
Dr. Google
Of course, Google doesn’t have to worry about it. Millions already take their health-related search results with a grain of salt. I’d really say that this update is an algorithm tweak and an interface tweak more than it being a real change to the way Google does things.

If I’m WebMD, I’d be a bit worried by these tweaks by Google. Doesn’t what Google’s doing sound a lot like WebMD? However, I’m sure Google sends a ton of traffic WebMD’s way, so they won’t likely complain about things. At least not for now.

I’m sure most doctors’ reaction to this is likely covered by this coffee cup:
Dr Google - Google Search Replacement for Medical Degree
In response to this mug, e-Patient Dave provides an alternate and important perspective on the balance between an informed patient versus an arrogant, disrespectful patient. Like most things in life, it’s what you do with the information or tool that matters. It can be used for good or bad depending on how you approach it.

All of this said, the patient is becoming more empowered every day. Consumer driven healthcare is here to stay and Dr. Google is going to be one important tool in that toolbox for many patients.

Is Cerner Edging Up On Epic?

Posted on January 7, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

At Verona, Wisc.-based Epic Systems, growth is a way of life. In fact, the EMR vendor now boasts a workforce of 9,400, which is estimated to be an increase of 1,400 staffers over the past year.

Not only that, Epic is confident enough to build cute. Its Campus 4, dubbed the “Wizards Academy Campus,” is designed to resemble the fictional Hogwarts school of Harry Potter fame — or if you’re academically-minded, England’s Oxford University. When completed this summer, Campus 4 will add 1,508 offices and 2,000 parking spaces to the Epic headquarters.

I could go on with details of the Disneyland Epic is making of its HQ, but you get the picture. Epic leaders are confident that they’re only going to expand their business, and they want to make sure the endless streams of young eggheads they recruit are impressed when they visit. My guess is that the Epic campus is being designed as a, well, campus speaks to the idea of seeing the company as a home. When I was 25, unique surroundings would have worked on me!

In any event, if I was running the place, I’d be pretty confident too. After all, if its own stats are correct, Epic software is either being used by or installed at 360 healthcare organizations in 10 countries. The EMR giant also reports that its platform manages records for 180 million Americans, or about 55 percent of the entire U.S. population. It also reported generating a not-so-shabby $1.8 billion in revenues for 2014.

But a little-noticed report issued by analyst firm KLAS last year raises questions as to whether the Epic steamroller can maintain its momentum. According to the report, which admittedly came out about a year ago, “the competition between Epic and Cerner is closer than it has been in years past as customers determine their future purchasing plans,” analysts wrote.

According to KLAS researchers, potential EMR buyers are largely legacy customers deciding how to upgrade. These potential customers are giving both Cerner and Epic a serous look, with the remainder split between Meditech and McKesson upgrades.

The KLAS summary doesn’t spell out exactly why researchers believe hospital leaders are beginning to take Cerner as seriously as Epic, but some common sense possibilities occur to me:

The price:  I’m not suggesting that Cerner comes cheap, but it’s become clear over the years that even very solvent institutions are struggling to pay for Epic technology. For example, when traditionally flush-with-cash Brigham and Women’s Hospital undershoots its expected surplus by $53 million due (at least in part) to its Epic install, it’s gotta mean something.

Budget overruns: More often than not, it seems that Epic rollouts end up costing a great deal more than expected. For example, when New York City-based Health and Hospital Corp. signed up to implement Epic in 2013, the deal weighed in at $302 million. Since then, the budget has climbed to $764 million, and overall costs could hit $1.4 billion. If I were still on the fence I’d find numbers like those more than a little concerning. And they’re far from unique.

Scarce specialists:  By the company’s own design, Epic specialists are hard to find. (Getting Epic certified seems to take an act of Congress.) It must be quite nerve-wracking to cut a deal with Epic knowing that Epic itself calls the shots on getting qualified help. No doubt this contributes to the high cost of Epic as well.

Despite its control of the U.S. market, Epic seems pretty sure that it has nowhere to go but up. But that’s what Microsoft thought before Google took hold. If that comparison bears any weight, the company that will lap up Epic’s business and reverse its hold on the U.S. market probably already exists. It may not be Cerner, but Epic will face meaningful competition sometime soon.

Microsoft Joins Battle for Wearables Market

Posted on November 4, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Following the lead of several other companies big and small, Microsoft has jumped into the wearables healthcare market with a watch, a fitness tracker and a cloud-based platform that condenses and shares data.

It’s little wonder. After a few years of uncertainty, it seems pretty clear that the wearables market is taking off like a rocket. In fact, 21% of US consumers own such a device, according to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers. That’s slightly higher that the number of consumers who bought tablets during the first two years after they launched, PwC reports. Not only Microsoft, but Apple and Samsung, as well as smaller players with a high profile — such as Fitbit — are poised to take the sector by storm.

Microsoft’s new entry is called Microsoft Health, a platform letting users store health and fitness data. The date in question is collected by a Microsoft Health app, available on Android, iOS and Windows Phone. The platform also gathers data generated from the Microsoft Band, a smart and designed to work with Microsoft’s new platform.

The idea behind pulling all of this data into a single platform is to integrate data from different devices and services in a smart way that allows consumers to generate insights into their health. The next step for Microsoft Health, execs say, is to connect all of that data in the platform to the tech giant’s HealthVault, a Web-based PHR, making it easier for people to share data with their healthcare providers.

Other tech giants are making their own wearables plays, of course. Google, for example, has released Google Fit, a fitness-based app designed to help users track physical activity. Google’s approach is  Android smart phones, relying on sensors built into the smart phones to detect if the user is walking, running or biking. Users can also connect to devices and apps like Noom Coach and Withings.

Apple, for its part, has launched HealthKit, its competing platform for collecting data from various health and fitness apps.  The data can then be accessed easily by Apple users through the company’s Health app (which comes installed on the iPhone 6.) HealthKit is designed to send data directly to hospital and doctor charts as well. It also plans to launch a smart watch early next year.

While there’s little doubt consumers are interested in the wearables themselves, it’s still not clear how enthusiastic they are about pulling all of their activity onto a single platform. Providers might be more excited about taming this gusher of data, which has proved pretty intimidating to doctors already overwhelmed with standard EMR information, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll find fitness information to be helpful.

All told, it looks like there will be a rollicking battle for the hearts and minds of wearables consumers, as well as the loyalty of providers.  As for me, I think it will be a year or two, at minimum, before we get a real sense of what consumers and providers really want from these devices.

Social Media

Posted on October 27, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As most of you realize, I’m a huge fan of social media. Certainly social media isn’t without its risks, but that’s true about almost everything in life. I’ve found if you stick to doing and saying things that you would do in public, then you don’t have to fear social media. Instead, you can embrace all the benefits.

One of the biggest challenges we know face with social media is which social media you should use. There are far too many social media sites. In fact, it seems like almost any site that comes out today has some element of social in it. On that note, which social media websites should you use? The answer is different for everyone, but here’s how I use social media.

Twitter – I put this one first, because I think it’s the one that I use most. You can find my healthcare IT tweets on @techguy and @ehrandhit. I’m very active on both accounts. I use @techguy for lots of things that are not EMR or health IT related. The way I look at it is that @techguy is me and @ehrandhit is my EMR and Healthcare IT Twitter profile. Although, many of my EMR and healthcare IT friends/colleagues know me as @techguy. That’s fine with me as well.

The thing I like most about Twitter is the people you connect with on it. Sure, if you look through my stream you’ll see me interacting with a lot of people. Turns out I interact with even more through the private messages. Plus, Twitter is where I start a lot of relationships which then get taken to other means of communication that go beyond 140 characters.

Before I leave Twitter, just remember that Twitter is what you make it. If you want it to be about every time you eat something, then it will be that. If you want it to be something more, it can be that too. I see Twitter as a long term investment in networking. I can’t tell you how valuable it is.

LinkedIn – You can find my profile on LinkedIn here. However, if you think that LinkedIn is about those profiles, then you’re missing out on the best part of LinkedIn. Those profiles are an important feature of LinkedIn, but far from the meat of what’s great. In fact, when LinkedIn was just profiles you could barely consider it a social network. Back then it really was all about finding a job, hiring people and other recruiting related tasks. If it was still that way, I’d almost never visit LinkedIn.

Turns out, LinkedIn has done an amazing job at leveraging these trusted profiles into a really interesting professional social network. I know that many of you are part of the Healthcare Scene group on LinkedIn. My only wish was that I started it sooner. The thing I love most about the groups on LinkedIn is that any comments you add are tied to your profile. So, when you say something I can take a quick look at your background to gain a better understanding of your point of view. We’re all influenced by our background and experience and so it’s great to have a LinkedIn profile tied to what you say so people can understand some of what’s influenced you.

Facebook – I actually love Facebook and use it quite extensively. Although, I don’t use it that much for business. Sure we have an EMR and HIPAA facebook group that does quite well. In fact, it indicates that I might be in the minority as far as not really using Facebook for business since so many people use that group. I do love Facebook for connecting with friends and family that are now all over the world. That’s why I stick with it for personal instead of business, but business does creep on there sometimes.

Google+ – I’m still debating my use of Google Plus. If you look at my profile you’ll see that I tested it out a lot out of the gate and then have slowed more recently in my use of it. I still think it has potential. I also love the deep conversations you can have on Google Plus. My challenge with Google Plus has been trying to figure out what it does that I can’t do just as well or better with Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Facebook. I’ll keep playing around with it, but I’m not sure it will ever make it into my daily routine.

There you go. As I think about other social network sites I use, I don’t have any others that I really use regularly. Are there any others that you use regularly? I’m always interested in trying out new websites, but I have a feeling it will be hard for any other websites to take down these in my routine. I guess that’s why I think it’s a challenge for any new healthcare related website to crack into someone’s schedule. The one that does will take something special.

Google’s Eric Schmidt Talks Health IT

Posted on January 14, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I always find it interesting when someone who knows very little about healthcare IT starts joining into the discussion. Part of me wants to scream that they are making assertions about something they know little about. How often in my life have I done the same and it came back to bite me? Too often. However, the other part of me loves the idea of fresh eyes taking a look at a problem. Sometimes it stimulates a new way of thinking that promote effective change.

So, of course, I find Google CEO, Eric Schmidt’s, comments on healthcare IT interesting. Here they are according to the Science Insider:

“My question has to do with the model of health care that we’ll be facing in 5 or 10 years,” Schmidt began. “It’s pretty clear that we’ll have personalized health records, and we’ll have the equivalent of a UPC sticker with your medical history. So when you show up at the doctor with some set of symptoms, in my ideal world what would happen is that the doctor would type in the symptoms he or she also observes, and it would be matched against the data in this repository. Then this knowledge engine would use best practices, and all the knowledge in the world to give physicians some sort of standardized guidance. This is a generalized form of the checklists that you’re talking about.”

Then Schmidt made clear what was troubling him. “As computer scientists, this is a platform database problem, and we do these very, very well, as a general rule. And it befuddles me why medicine hasn’t organized itself around these platform opportunities.”

I bet Eric Schmidt wants that UPC sticker to be doing lookup on Google Health.

Chrome OS Electronic Medical Record Anyone?

Posted on November 20, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The tech world is buzzing about Google’s new Operating System (OS) called Chrome. You can read the full writeup from Google’s Chrome OS announcement on Techcrunch or the official announcement on the Official Google blog. Basically, Google has created an operating system for a netbook (or at least netbook like) computer that will be super fast. The reason it can work so fast is that it will basically only run web applications. Yes, this is hard to wrap your head around, but it is really interesting.

Let’s apply the Chrome OS to EMR and healthcare. Imagine you have an EMR software that’s completely web based (yes, there are a number of them already). Then, the Chrome OS would be perfect for that EMR. I should also mention that the Chrome OS computer is likely to be in the $300-$500 range. That’s a lot of savings.

Now let’s talk about speed. I’ve been using the Chrome web browser for months now and it’s just flat out faster than any other browser out there. In fact, every once in a while I open another browser and have to avoid slitting my throat as I wait for it to load. I expect the Chrome OS will be just as fast. Yes, every doctors office likes speed. Can the EMR integrate with Chrome at a level that they optimize the speed of the EMR? They could. Will be interesting to see if anyone will.

How about security? Well, there’s nothing being stored on the Chrome OS laptop. Yes, that means all of the data from this new laptop is being stored on the server. Even the data that’s temporarily stored on the laptop is encrypted. Now imagine you lose a laptop (nah, that’s never happened in healthcare, right?). Good news is that there’s no patient data on the laptop since it’s all stored in the cloud.

Of course, one downside with the Chrome OS is that you’re dependent on your internet connection to do much of anything. However, with an EMR that’s generally true anyway. So, I don’t see much difference there.

One challenge I do see is the document management piece of an EMR. Document management is file intensive and needs a real OS. I don’t see much getting around this. I don’t see Google adding in support for things like high end scanners (or even low end ones for that matter). However, you just purchase one or two computers for your office that can handle the scanning. Problem solved.

No doubt the Chrome OS isn’t the end all be all to computers. It likely won’t even takeover a HUGE percentage of market share. However, it is a really interesting development that could be interesting applied to an EMR and healthcare.