Wireless Healthcare

Wireless Healthcare, a company based in England, recently released a report entitled “Wireless Based Disease Management: Google, Microsoft and IBM in the Healthcare Market.” Naturally, I can’t read this report because it costs almost $400 USD. I noticed it, however, because it addresses the impact of online availability of genomic/genetic testing results. Specifically, the report addresses (at least I believe it does!) the advisability of online advertising displayed alongside health care records.

According to news releases and a blog post:

“Wireless Healthcare forecast patients gaining access to their genetic profile and managing their health using an online patient record, but they expressed doubts about the efficacy of banner advertisements as revenue model for companies that offer such services.”

“We are seeing the emergence of a new ehealth model that challenges some of the assumptions made by existing online healthcare providers and medical device manufacturers,” said Peter Kruger, an analyst with Wireless Healthcare, explained. “This new model impacts not only on how diseases are diagnosed but also the way healthcare is delivered and ehealth services are funded.”

“Kruger is sceptical as to whether the advertising on personal health records will be readily accepted by patients and regulators. “Advertising and healthcare do not mix well and this issue is already proving to be controversial,” said Kruger. “I am sure that regulators would be unhappy if banner advertisements started to appear on a patient’s online medical record or diagnosis.”

Interestingly, one report stated the following:

“Wireless Healthcare believes that Google’s recent investment in the 23andMe (a Genetic profiling company) and Microsoft’s recent purchase of Medstory (an intelligent medical search company) could be leading to the emergence of services that are highly disruptive within the healthcare market.”

It is inevitable that people will be able to access their genetic profile and manage their own health accordingly. Undoubtedly, some or most of this access will be online without the supervision of a medical specialist (even if there were supervision, the medical field is going to have to do a lot of catching up over the next decade or so to be useful for genomic profiling). As a result, in addition to the normal security concerns there will be controversy over advertising and other presentation concerns. How neutral should online presentation of genomic results or other health testing be? Advertising aside, there will be a need for result interpretation, and this will undoubtedly require search portals or extensive off-site linking.

I doubt that the only reason Google and Microsoft are delving into the world of healthcare is to provide banner advertising. It would seem that there are many other ways to make online healthcare profitable, including charging people to sequence, analyze, and store their genetic profile.

It isn’t “Google’s recent investment in 23andMe” or “Microsoft’s recent purchase of Medstory” that will be “highly disruptive within the healthcare market.” It is the services that such companies offer that will be revolutionary, and these services will come about regardless of who is financing them.

Blaine Bettinger

Intellectual property attorney, genealogist, and author of The Genetic Genealogist since 2007