Following Up with Amy Cowan of Google

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We’ll be kicking off this week’s theme of “Ones to Watch” by revisiting Pixels & Pills’ interview with Google’s Amy Cowan at the ePharma Summit earlier this year.

By Jason Brandt

Last month, Pixels & Pills’ Carl Turner interviewed Amy Cowan, head of the health industry for Google at the ePharma Summit.

In her conversation with Carl, Amy discussed how her presentation at the summit, similar to her presentation at the FDA hearings, had outlined some of the developing trends in search and online use, both in technology such as video and smartphones, as well as in user patterns such as those of physicians and senior citizens.

However, the flip side of Google is outlined in a video that’s been circulating over the last two weeks, describing Google’s extensive reach and questioning its means toward the end of advertising revenue. It would be disingenuous of us, despite our pleasure in meeting Amy, to pretend that Google has no detractors.

Really, though, any sentiment is beside the point, because regardless of your feelings about Google’s power, that it has such power is a fact. So Google’s involvement in the healthcare industry should be of interest to everyone else in it. And it has been, for years. Just see these articles about Google Health from 2006 on ZDNet, on Google’s own blog or from the New York Times in 2007.

Recently, though, as the video shows, skepticism and suspicion has been growing, as in this ZDNet article from last week titled “Google Health Is Not At All Well”. It has a decidedly different tone from the one in 2006: “There was fear expressed in the aisles [at the HIMSS conference]… that the company only wants your personal data so it can exploit it, make money with it…. Microsoft insists HealthVault is merely an ingredient in other players solutions. Google wants Google Health branded to Google…. Microsoft is seen as an upstanding HIMSS member, while Google is still seen as a foreign presence.”

Regardless, however, Google Health continues to add features and partners. And it’s important to consider that Google Health isn’t the only service offered by Google that can be relevant in a discussion of healthcare. Can augmented reality use Google Goggles, Picasa photos, Google Latitude locator, or YouTube video to provide relevant information to users? Can Google Voice or Google Talk enable doctor-patient conversations? Of course.

Whether you are a fan or a detractor, Google is a digital superpower, and its expansion deserves your consideration. As you develop solutions for helping patients and the healthcare system, never lose sight of how Google will fit into that paradigm – because they will.



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