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12/8/2006
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Google VP Calls for Personal Health URLs

Adam Bosworth pushes the Internet as a way to speed and coordinate delivery of health care

Google believes the Web could be good for your health.

In a speech on Thursday at a healthcare and technology conference in Washington, D.C., Google engineering VP Adam Bosworth called for giving patients and caregivers control over health information.

"[E]very ill person needs a 'health URL,' an online meeting place where their caregivers — with express permission from the ill person — can come together, pass on notes to each other, review each other's notes, look at the medical data and suggest courses of action," said Bosworth. "This isn't rocket science. It is online Web applications 101."

Recounting the obstacles his mother faced during her diagnosis of and treatment for ovarian cancer, Bosworth decried the institutional barriers that hinder health care today. "We live in a world in which information flows at the speed of light and in which Google can find all the most relevant answers to any query you submit across the entire Web in less than one-third of a second and yet, in general, your physician cannot get the lab results from your last specialist without paper and fax," he lamented.

To those who fret "it is too hard to build consistent standards and to define interoperable ways to move the information," Bosworth says that it can be done. "Ten years ago, I heard people saying the same things about how hard it would be to build consistent standards for allowing programs all across the world to share data," he said. "I set out with a small band of people to build a standard way to share any information, XML. And once we built it, within 10 years it had become the lingua franca for computers to exchange data."

"What is needed in the field of health care isn't palliatives," said Bosworth. "We don't need measures that merely help doctors manage their practices or get a few more images into the operating theatre. We need to put control into the hands of the sick and their caregivers and to gently suggest that those who treat them, medicate them, test them or diagnose them, are out of date if they do not instantly deliver this information to the patient."

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