Saturday, February 07, 2009

Google: Put your money where your health is

Creditcrunch or no, Google keeps unleashing new products by the day it seems. Better said perhaps, keeps adding new threads to its web to pull you in. Just today I came across an article on one of the top 10 Dutch weblogs, Hyped, and noticed an article on Google Health.

Together with IBM they've worked on integrating Google Health with lots of medical appliances. Late last year I blogged about Google tracking the flu worldwide, but now they're monitoring your heartbeat as well.

In demonstrations, IBM and Google fitted Wi-Fi radios to gadgets like heart rate monitors, blood pressure cuffs, scales and blood-sugar measurement meters, allowing the devices to communicate with a PC and feed real-time medical information directly into Google’s online records. [Forbes]

When looking at the service in itself, it could definately be added value to patients and help reduce cost in healthcare. The problem I have with this service is Google. The Mountain View corp is a technology firm and a commercial one at that, regardless of all their free services and open source thingies. Google is about making money and this money making machine is getting into our lives in a pretty scary way. They know everything about you and are able to connect everything together with all their services.

I blogged about this before (In a World...), and that was even before Google Health, their flu tracking and the privacy law violating Google Latitude I haven't gotten round to blog yet. One thing is clear though; Health will be one of the money making machines on the internet in the coming decade.

In the past months there has been a huge discussion in the Netherlands about the Government and the Healthcare industry implementing the EPD, the Electronic Patient Dossier, a system in which patient files are linked together. Especially the privacy of patients has been the volatile issue in this experiment. With Google Health this conversations is outdated, as Google -oblivious of privacy rulings - makes it work.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Scienta est Potentia, Google est Scienta

Does Tessier Ashpool SA ring a bell? Well, it should. It is the name of one of the mega corporations in William Gibson's "Neuromancer" In a quite dystopian setting it is mega corporations that have real power on earth (and beyond).

In our present day we also see the rise of mega corporations, large industrial conglomerates spreading their tentacles into this world. For now, they are just companies, focussed on profits, but according to trendwatcher Adjiedj Bakas who predicts the future will see global mega companies turning into sovereign states.

Google Flu Trends

With the above in mind, I just came across a report on a new Google service which kind of scares me.

GOOGLE will launch a new tool that will help federal officials "track sickness"."

Flu Trends" uses search terms that people put into the web giant to figure out where influenza is heating up, and will notify the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in real time!

GOOGLE, continuing to work closely with government, claims it would keep individual user data confidential: "GOOGLE FLU TRENDS can never be used to identify individual users because we rely on anonymized, aggregated counts of how often certain search queries occur each week."

Engineers will capture keywords and phrases related to the flu, including thermometer, flu symptoms, muscle aches, chest congestion and others.

Dr. Lyn Finelli, chief of influenza surveillance at CDC: "One thing we found last year when we validated this model is it tended to predict surveillance data. The data are really, really timely. They were able to tell us on a day-to-day basis the relative direction of flu activity for a given area. They were about a week ahead of us. They could be used... as early warning signal for flu activity."

Eric Schmidt, GOOGLE's chief executive vows: "From a technological perspective, it is the beginning."

Thomas Malone, professor at M.I.T.: "I think we are just scratching the surface of what's possible with collective intelligence."

Read Full Report at Drudge Report.

Scientia est potentia

In plain English this means knowledge is power. The Google octopus is slowly speading its tentacles into every corner of digital data, creating access to unprecedented amounts of corporate and private knowledge. Creating access, not only opening up access to this knowledge to the public, but also acquiring this knowledge itself more or less, comprising it into a collective intelligence.

Does this mean that when Google holds the key to the knowledge of the world, Google holds the key to the seats of power in this world as well?

GOOGLE, continuing to work closely with government, claims it would keep individual user data confidential:

This specific sentence should turn on the alarmbells. We've fought so hard to tear down the walls of domination from Microsoft, sueing them in every way to prevent them from gaining market domination. Yet when Google is working closely with governments, will it make those governments blind to the level of domination Google already has?

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CIGNA Healthcare in Second Life

One of the latest, more interesting, corporate excursions into Second Life probably has been the immersion of the US Based insurance company Cigna.

"CIGNA can trace its roots back to 1792, and the founding of the Insurance Company of North America (INA), the US's first marine insurer. Its first life insurance policy was issued two years later. In 1865, the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CG) was formed in Hartford, Connecticut. Nearly 120 years later, in 1982, CG and INA merged to form CIGNA. In 1993 CIGNA introduced its Tree of Life brand identity. In 1998, CIGNA sold its individual life insurance business to Lincoln National Corporation, and the next year it sold its property and casualty insurance business to ACE Limited. In 2000, it sold its reinsurance business to Swiss Re. In 2004, it sold its pension business to Prudential Financial. CIGNA's business segments include CIGNA Healthcare, CIGNA Group Life & Disability, and CIGNA International, all core businesses designed to help customers improve their health, well-being and security." [wikipedia]

Cigna has teamed up with Metaverse Development Company Method to shape their virtual presence. In what I think is a highly succesfull build the company focusses on health awareness, as thinking in the Healthcare business (and thus healthcare insurance) shifts from treatment to prevention.

Unfortunately the island itself is closed for the general public, but I hope to be able to post some more info shortly. In the mean time, here's some links to the press coverage the immersion received:

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 17, 2008

Virtual Healthcare 3: MS Island

Hidden between a number of ABN Amro employee islands I stumbled upon a simulator called "MS Island". As things go with synchronicity, this week seems to run a streak of hospitals and medication in the virtual and real world alike.

Probably the best way to describe the intended use of the build is by dropping the notecard which comes in Dutch and English:

This is the island of VU university medical center and the MS Center Amsterdam. This is a pilot project to see if a virtual world and community can have a positive influence on the wellbeing of people with MS.

This project is a cooperation of:

  • VU university medical center
  • MS Center Amsterdam
  • MSWeb
  • Dutch MS Research Foundation
  • Dutch MS Society (MSVN)
  • Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF)

In this building you will find more information about these organizations, a meeting room for people with MS and other interested parties, and a presentation and consultation room.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask one of the hosts.

The agenda contains the opening hours of the pub and presentations.

We wish you a pleasant stay.

The build itself is quite different from the slick Palomar hospital. The main venue is decently build and gives a lot of information on MS.

The rest of the sim is a little too unorganised in my opinion. A large part is set up as a stage (what's the use of a permanent set up if you only give a concert at the opening of the sim?) and is surrounded by a jumble of market stands and advertisements. Collecting money isn't a crime, especially not for organisations like this and it is admirable that residents donate their stuff to be sold, still it had a somewhat cheapy look and feel to it.

One of the lines in the introduction note was waiting to be answered:

This is a pilot project to see if a virtual world and community can have a positive influence on the wellbeing of people with MS.

Unfortunately, the sim has given me no answer, nor was there any greeter who could help me out. Because I could not find any answer to these project goals I was largely disappointed in this build.

However, please drop in and donate a few Linden Dollars to this good cause!

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Virtual Healthcare 2: Palomar Pomerado Health

This week I suddenly was confronted with more hospital visits than I'd hoped for (though not personal), and kept delaying writing this post for days.

Early april 2007 I wrote a short blogpost on the Cleveland Heart Clinic in Second Life which was probably the first hospital to enter Second Life. The question I ended that particular blogpost with was: "I wonder though, are they about to perform virtual surgery? I'm hoping they can explain what SL can add to hospital care."

The times, they are changing though. Nearly a year later I see how virtual worlds can perform a massive role in education and training. A world like second life offers a lot of opportunities for modelling the complex human anatomy (see for instance the Testis Tour) and virtually practising surgery would overcome a shortage of breathing guinneepigs.

Research company Forrester also sees virtual Healthcare as one of the promising areas when it it comes to the virtual workspace. In the "Getting real work done in Virtual Worlds" they describe one healthcare project in particular:

Developing effective healthcare team coordination. Duke University and Virtual Heroes are collaborating on a high-fidelity 3-D virtual environment for healthcare, funded by the US Army. The initial project, targeting healthcare team coordination skills, is called 3DiTeams and combines gaming concepts with the healthcare team coordination training curriculum developed by the US Department of Defense and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

In the past year we've seen several smaller 'medical experiments' in Second Life, but late February saw two major projects enter Second Life; the IBM Healthcare island and Palomar West, both opening in the wake of the HIMMS'08 healthcare conference.

The Palomar West simulation is a joint effort by Cisco and Palomar Pomerado Health, though in developing the Second Life sim, Cisco has had major help from Millions of Us. The february 25 press release reads:

Cisco® and Palomar Pomerado Health (PPH) today cut the ribbon on a new hospital in the online virtual world "Second Life." The virtual hospital, a simulation of a real-world hospital campus due to open in 2011, gives visitors the opportunity to tour the hospital years before its doors actually open.

The virtual hospital showcases the rich assortment of design and technology innovations planned for the real-world Palomar West Medical Campus in San Diego, Calif., and to gather feedback that will be used to enhance the way that care is delivered. The immersive quality of "Second Life" allows visitors to experience the progressive nature-embracing design of the hospital firsthand. Visitors will also be able to experience Connected Hospital technologies that will be delivered in the real hospital by Cisco. (Full press release here.)

In short, The Second Life island is a representation of a new Healthcare campus to be opened in 2011. It actually is a very good build. For n00bs there's a short introduction to navigating Second Life near the entrance of the hospital.

I received my Hospital tag which guided me through the hospital, making sure I went to the right rooms to have my gall bladder repaired. Throughout the tour a lot of information was pushed through excellent movies, but they essentially are a promo talk on the Cisco solutions for Unified Communications, telepresence monitoring, rfID, etcetera. I can see this part of the simulator become real in the near future.

Fully automated, or robot-driven surgery probably won't be integrated in the RL campus opening in 2011.

After surgery I returned to my hospital room for a few second to recuperate, but soon was sent outside as 'clean air' helps a lot for speedy recovery. The downside is that I entered into an 'Al-Gorish' speech about minimizing the footprint, low emission products and more green bla bla.

For information about Cisco Connected Health technologies, visit


Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Virtual Heatlhcare

NMCthe consortium of the major US universities, developed the OneCleveland sim as part of their “Cleveland 2.0″ concept, a project that encompasses education, arts, culture, health care and community services, as well as business and entertainment. This area will be available for visitors of both the Main Grid and the Teen Grid, and Case Western Reserve University will be the first facility to use the space there.

As part of that project, Beta Technologies developed a replica of the very nice modern building for the Cleveland Clinic Heart Center. I wonder though, are they about to perform virtual surgery? I'm hoping they can explain what SL can add to hospital care.

Labels: , , ,