Tag Archives: google

Interactive models make anatomy accessible

The body imaging folks over at GE Healthymagination have teamed with Healthline networks to put together Healthline BodyMaps, a user-friendly human body navigation tool. It allows users to view a model of a male or female body in three dimensions and numerous layers (think “muscles” or “circulatory system”), and to identify specific body parts and relevant information.

This new toy isn’t as robust as Google body, a product the search behemoth rolled out late last year, but it is somewhat more accessible. Unlike Google’s product, which is fully 3D modeled using the emergent WebGL standard which calls for the latest versions of Chrome or Firefox, while BodyMaps uses Adobe’s almostomnipresent Flash player. Its models are more limited, but also easier to navigate.

Both tools can be used to identify and link to specific body parts, which will come in handy when adding context to certain stories, but neither are embeddable enough to provide in-story illustration.

(Hat tip to ReadWriteWeb’s Curt Hopkins)

healthlinebodymapsHuman female musculature on Healthline BodyMaps
googlebodyHuman female musculature on Google body

Online health info matters because people act on it

Google health industry director Mary Ann Belliveau guest-posted on CNN’s health blog this week. Her main point? That after 15 years in health care (nine with Google), she’s learned that “‘health’ isn’t just another category of information,” a fact she attributes to privacy issues and the life-or-death stakes that don’t generally accompany videos of Justin Bieber or Mentos and Coke.

She also said that health videos are exceedingly popular on Youtube — they beat out celebrities, sports and food — and that patients’ (and caregivers’) No. 1 desire is to “hear from people in situations similar to their own.”

More interestingly, she shared the results of what appeared to be recent, Google-conducted user surveys. The big lesson? People really do take real-world action based on health information they find online. It’s yet another reminder of the importance — and stakes — of accurate online health reporting. Here are the numbers:


Google charts health data from CDC, World Bank

Google has removed another step between people and information with the release of its new Public Data Explorer. It’s a service through which Google links neat, tidy and reputable sets of data with a beefed-up version of its chart programs.

Right now it’s limited to 13 data sets, though Google implies that it will continue to expand those offerings based on demand. Those data sets include three that are powered by the CDC’s WONDER data delivery platform.

Data from the World Bank includes international numbers on things such as fertility rates, births attended by skilled health staff, rates of immunization against measles, prevalence of HIV, life expectancy and more. You also can find statistics on the U.S. population from the Census Bureau.

At present, the limited selection mean that it probably won’t be useful for more than a handful of stories, but it’s something to keep an eye on as Google continues to add data and customization options.

Here’s a quick example mapping U.S. cancer rates (circle color) and number of cases (circle size) by state.

NOTE: If you can’t see the visualization, you’ll probably need to upgrade your browser.

(Hat tip to ReadWriteWeb)

Patients must sort, evaluate online health advice

On O’Reilly Radar, Brian Ahier reviews various efforts to help patients sort through the reams of health information online and to come up with something useful and credible.

Ahier includes an in-depth look at The Decision Tree, a new book by Thomas Goetz. Goetz walks patients through a data-driven approach to health decisions, focusing on the three pillars of early action, data reliance and openness.

“One of the themes of the book is that by knowing and better understanding our genetic makeup, we can improve the medical decision making process.” Ahier’s article includes a decision-tree widget that asks the consumer a series of questions and offers some information.

Ahier also squeezes in a reference to Susannah Fox’s Pew Internet commentary on search engines and health information. According to Fox, “two-thirds of consumer health inquiries start at a general search engine” and that number is growing steadily. Given their importance in the health information market, Fox says, search engines have focused on ways to deliver the most reliable and relevant information to consumers.

Among other things, Fox addresses Google’s effort to “guide consumers to safe, trusted health websites,” including this insight from Roni Zeiger of Google Health on just how this is done:

For this health search feature we decided to offer users one source each from a governmental health agency, a medical institution, and a commercial site. We’ll study how users like these choices and continue to iterate. None of these sites is paying any money to Google to be included in the feature. Google is 100% committed to ranking websites objectively to provide the most relevant information to users. Websites cannot pay for higher search rank.

Gawande, Google and health systems analysis

Earlier this month, New Yorker writer and surgeon Atul Gawande brought his checklist gospel (video) to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Writing for AAAS’ science-policy blog ScienceInsider, Jeffrey Mervis chronicled the encounter, paying special attention to the observations of council member and Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

electronic medical recordsGoogle CEO Eric Schmidt. Photo by World Economic Forum via Flickr

To Schmidt, the challenge of creating a system that synthesizes patient history and creates a list of standardized recommendations boils down to a simple “platform database problem,” something he says computer scientists are very good at.

Gawande‘s take is that programmers don’t quite understand the vagaries of a typical clinical encounter. The technological capability may exist, but it’s going to be hard to make an information system that is able to generate recommendations brief and practical enough to be of use to a typical super-busy physician who has to suss out six different problems in one 15-minute visit.

In the course of the discussion, Gawande and the council also bemoaned the relatively low status of the health systems analyst and brainstormed ways to raise the profile and effectiveness of the specialization.