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Google Wave: The Possibilities for Patient-Centered Communication

Google Wave: The Possibilities for Patient-Centered Communication

Camille Schenkel | Editor - Healthyspacesrx.com

Google introduced Google Wave at the end of May to much acclaim. Several aspects of the product have tremendous potential for patient-centered communication online. The question becomes will the developer community respond during the developer period by building applications that takes advantage of the live collaboration tool or will HIPAA considerations nip the potential of Google Wave in the bud for the Health IT community?

Google Wave is a tool that allows participants to edit and work on richly formatted text, documents and rich media in real-time. Google describes a wave as “part conversation and part document.” Waves are like email and IM in one, with the ability to collaborate on pictures and other media thrown in. It’s an ambitious attempt by Google to revolutionize real-time communication. Google has also released a draft protocol for evaluation by the develop community. In order to maximize adoption, Google has released open source, production-quality, reference implementation of the Google Wave client and server.

There are several potential uses for Google Wave in the healthcare context. The first, most powerful use is the ability of the health community to implement patient-centered communication. Doctors and patients are able to initiate communicate around a condition and all things related to the patient’s condition are captured within a wavelet (individual conversations/collaborations). Things like MRI’s and test results can be appended to a wave and doctors and specialists can collaborate through the wave. Since the communication is server-based, these conversations can be captured, secured, tagged, searched, etc.

There are several challenges to overcome in implementation. The first and foremost is patient privacy. Patient communications are subject to HIPAA regulations. According to Google, the wave server acts as a communication hub, storing operations and echoing them to clients which are connected and ‘interested’ in that wavelet. Wavelets may be federated, meaning that wavelet servers can exchange operations about wavelets amongst themselves. A sufficient security architecture would have to be deployed properly so communications can be secured and stored properly.

Another consideration is scale. For Google Wave to be truly useful, several provider types would need to be engaged on the platform. While it would be useful for doctors and patients to be engaged in communication on a wave, the tool becomes even more powerful when specialists, hospitals and labs can also participate in a wave since it can store the previous conversations and as test results, etc become available, these objects can be shared on a wave as well.


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