Google and the Patient

How do you use Google in your practice?

Google is the behemoth in the industry. Most of us use it every day in some capacity. Want to try a new Italian restaurant? Look it up on Google. Have a question about local events? Google it.

And do we love using Google. Every single day, 5.6 billion searches are made by typing in the search bar and clicking the button. That narrows down to 63,000 searches per second, and averages out to every single person using Google 3 to 4 times a day for more information.

Depending on your practice, you might even use Google to advertise. In 2020, Google brought in $146.92 billion in ad revenue through the Google ad platform. This includes display ads, product listings, as well as placement ads through partner sites.

While Google is a staple in our lives, there may be parts of Google you’ve never thought much about before.

Google recently struck a deal with a national hospital chain, HCA Healthcare Inc, to develop healthcare algorithms using patient records. The premise is digitizing this healthcare information will help improve operating efficiency, and increase care by giving doctors more accessibility to records and information. By using AI and having a way to electronically pull data based on needs, doctors will eventually be able to dig deeper for solutions, and make better decisions for their patients.

Yet some are already questioning the implications. With Google taking in vast amounts of data, will they be able to utilize this information for other purposes? They may not have your name attached to it, but they can group it together by other means, and potentially sell it for advertising.

This, of course, brings the question of privacy up once again. What does privacy really mean?

There is another angle to it as well.

What if someone famous walks into your practice and asks for advice? You’re intrigued. You sit down at your computer and Google them. Is this ethical? Is it a breach of privacy?

Or what if you’re treating a patient and you have concerns. Your gut is telling you there’s more to the story. Something isn’t quite right. Can you Google their name? Can you search for more information?

According to the American Medical Association, even though no ethics policy addresses search behavior, it’s still important to respect patient privacy as a medical practitioner.

It comes down to two things:

Relevancy - is the data you’re searching for relevant to the overall care of the patient?

Trustworthy - what you find on Google isn’t always truthful. Did you find the real story?

Because Google is a big part of our lives, the question isn’t about utilizing it in our everyday lives. Instead, it’s about restructuring what privacy really means, and learning to live alongside the capabilities Google offers to our society.

With Google, there’s more to the story. It’s up to you to decide how to use it accordingly.

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