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Google's Bosworth

By - December 01, 2006

180Px-Adam Bosworth

Adam Bosworth made a lot of waves when he joined Google, given his background in highly ambitious OS and database projects at Microsoft and BEA. For a brief while, his every utterance on his personal blog caused fibrillations across the industry as we all speculated that Adam was going to run Google’s answer to Microsoft Hailstorm/Vista/Windows.

But a funny thing happened. Adam stopped posting on his blog, and Google got a bit cranky when asked about the whole OS thing, and even crankier when asked about Adam’s blog.

Now, Adam’s re-emerged, with a new mission: Health. More from his posting, his official posting, I should say, on the Google Blog:

Patients also need to be able to better coordinate and manage their own health information. We believe that patients should control and own their own health information, and should be able to do so easily. Today it is much too difficult to get access to one’s health records, for example, because of the substantial administrative obstacles people have to go through and the many places they have to go to collect it all. Compare this to financial information, which is much more available from the various institutions that help manage your financial “health.” We believe our industry should help solve this problem.

As the Internet increasingly helps link communities of people, we also think there is an opportunity to connect people with similar health interests, concerns and problems. Today, people too often don’t know that others like them even exist, let alone how to find them. The industry should help there, too.

These are some of the health-related problems we’re thinking through at Google.

I completely agree that health information is a huge problem to be addressed, and I’m pleased as can be that someone as smart as Adam has stepped up to lead the charge at Google. But I wonder where this is really going to go. Google loves to bite off problems that are extremely hard to chew – Books comes to mind – but this one might prove undigestable for all sorts of reasons. Number one to my mind is the clusterf*ck that is information rights. Strikes me Google might attempt to address that issue first, which might clear the way for all sorts of progress, in health, certainly, but in consumer rights as well.

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12 thoughts on “Google's Bosworth

  1. So Adam read “The End of Medicine” by Andy Kessler. Or someone at Google read it and said, “Hey! We can do that!”

    Are they going to open up a blood diagnostic center that I can show them my blood/DNA in?

    You’d think they’d go after my financial/credit data before my DNA, but I guess not…

  2. Denver Wang says:

    Hey John, I am runing a new search service in China, I would like to contact you and talk about the search in China Ok? My site is under construction right now, but will be launched soon.

  3. eas says:

    Having gone through the flap over information ownership & privacy that helped torpedo Hailstorm, Bosworth might be well briefed in dealing with those same issues when it comes to health care.

    In related news, I’m sure that VCs are going to be staying late tonight trying to figure out what to do about the holes in medical informatics and healthcare IT in their portfolios.

  4. christopher says:

    John –
    I think that albeit data rights are important, that the underlying thorn may be in the separation of what is:
    medical “data” [aka disease treatment trends, consumer to consumer self-care conversations, or provider severity-adjusted costs/outcomes for procedures and services] vs. patient “information” [aka patient-specific private/confidential data that NOBODY should have access to except the patient themselves and their care providers]. Yes, it is a slippery slope and no clear answer.

    Google may not be a white knight savior, but when Google speaks (figuratively)… the VC and media communities listen and thus many start-ups like ours are validated in their purpose to make a difference, financially supported, and literally encouraged to tackle the big hairy problems set before them.

    Again, no specific immediate results, but then again… the renewed focus on the healthcare info mess has helped us as prepare to launch.


  5. G says:

    Google ought to read up on the casualties in this space from the recent past. Even the smart ones have never gotten past first base. Everyone from Intel has given it a try in the healthcare space – directly or indirectly.

    The complexity of the issues around healthcare will make thier trials in copyright-land seem like disneyland!

    Furthermore, it is laughable to even suggest Google can handle privacy issues!

    Google even suggesting they would like to address Health speaks volumes about the ignorance (or is it arrogance) of those in Mountain View.

  6. Healia Team says:

    Companies that are new to healthcare may not realize that the healthcare industry is quite different from other domains in many important ways. As the largest sector of the US economy with many entrenched interests, even the mega technology companies will find that moving the healthcare industry in a certain direction is similar to steering an oil tanker with an oar.

    The Healia Team

  7. Lol
    The root of all unhealthy issues is going to address the health issues!

  8. Keith Cash says:


    Good luck organizing health care, I am still do not understanding why there is a database on my medical history that I do not have control of, and the insurance and medical profession have.

    Go for it.

  9. Greg Judd says:

    Christopher at Medbillmanager has it right: untangling personal from medical information is one of several key issues that any successful health information utility must negotiate effectively – and it can & will be done by someone. Probably someoneS.

    Another important conceptual issue is whether an effective health information utility proceeds from concerns about sickness, rather than health. Just because our ‘health system’ has inverted the vocabulary – inasmuch as it focuses, not on health, but on sickness – does not mean an effective health information system must take the same conceptual detour. Frankly, it will probably be the more effective, the stiffer its resolve NOT to be about ‘sickness’.

    Finally, there is no question that any successful health information system must first, last & always give the individual control over any of their own information.

    At the same time, it is useful to understand that those people who most need to be sure that caregivers can access their information effectively are acutely aware of the privacy/security/access tradeoffs – and are prepared to act on them:

    (from the 2005 Markle Foundation survey summary “Americans Want Benefits of Personal Health Records”):

    “Privacy and Security Concerns

    Almost all respondents (91 percent) are very concerned about privacy and keeping their health information secure.

    However, most people believe that technology provides appropriate protections. People with chronic illness and frequent health care users are less concerned about privacy and security.

    When it comes to sensitive personal health information, people who use the health care system more often report somewhat less concern than others.”

  10. Talk about reformating.

  11. i have seen that individual control over themselves, but great piece of informatiom

  12. Msn nickleri says:

    Having gone through the flap over information ownership & privacy that helped torpedo Hailstorm, Bosworth might be well briefed in dealing with those same issues when it comes to health care.

    In related news, I’m sure that VCs are going to be staying late tonight trying to figure out what to do about the holes in medical informatics and healthcare IT in their portfolios.