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Google Health Gets Personalized Advice From SafeMed

The U.S. Institute of Medicine estimates that there are 1.5 million health-care related, preventable adverse drug events in the U.S. annually.

Google Health may actually lead to better health, thanks to an analytics engine that offers users personalized advice about possible drug interactions and risks.

Using a patient's Google Health profile, the SafeMed Analysis Engine weighs symptoms, conditions, test results and medications to spot potentially harmful drug interactions. It is part of the Cleveland Clinic pilot test of Google Health and it is used by other health care providers.

"The SafeMed decision support system can in real-time help identify medicines that might be dangerous," said SafeMed founder and CMO Ahmed Ghouri. "In this iteration, our engine provides the drug safety analysis."

The U.S. Institute of Medicine estimates that there are 1.5 million health-care related, preventable adverse drug events in the U.S. annually.

The SafeMed system isn't a replacement for a physician's advice; rather it's intended to augment doctors' recommendations and to fill in the gaps when changes in a patient's health situation haven't been communicated to health-care providers.

"We believe that it's beneficial for the patient to have an informed dialog with his or her physician," said Ghouri. "When patients bring forth personally specific and relevant personal information, it greatly facilitates the discussion. It creates the basis for a much more informed visit."

According to Ghouri, SafeMed has conducted tests of the efficacy of its technology with health plans and medical schools and has found that up to 10% of medical decisions were altered as a result of the SafeMed Analysis Engine's advice. "That's a very, very large number," he said, noting that some of the changed decisions reflected financial or treatment-quality considerations rather than risk-reduction advice.

Other organizations also making use of the SafeMed Analysis Engine include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Beth Israel Deaconess Physician Organization, to name a few.

A possible downside of such systems is that they place a burden on the patient to keep the analysis engine appraised of events not tracked automatically or input by participating health-care providers. If a patent starts taking a particular medicine or herbal remedy, for example, and neglects to update his or her Google Health profile, SafeMed's engine will not re-evaluate the risks when asked for advice.

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