Friday, July 17, 2009

New Business Models for Google in McAllen, TX

Earlier this week I travelled to meet with Hal Luft, PhD, a Harvard-educated health economist and Director of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute.

Hal’s recent book, Total Cure, reads to technology implementers like workflow documentation from the future, so I brought a variety of questions about what new business models might exist in the post-reform world. My favorite idea that he came up with was Google as a health transaction processor.

Hal pointed out that Google has done well by providing consumers with applications they want and then charging businesses for information generated by those applications. With all those servers guaranteeing the classic high availability Google search function, Google looks for ways to use spare processing power in down times. One possibility would be free insurance claims processing. Google could then anonymize and crunch the claims data, connecting diagnosis codes, treatment codes, and subsequent diagnosis codes in order to determine low cost and high quality outcomes. If I were an insurance company with covered lives in McAllen, Texas, which recently gained some notoriety as a region with unusually high medical costs, I would want to know which doctors were the most efficient, and I would pay for the information. The gain to society would be that information about the practices of the efficient doctors would be more widely disseminated. Fits well with Google’s model of “organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful”.

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