Google still trying to find a use for Wave

Google Wave, when announced, sounded like the next big thing. Everyone was excited to try it and get in on the beta. After a year in beta, Google Wave opened up to the public with very little fanfare. Google's new communications platform was a flop. But they aren't going to give up on the platform yet, according to InformationWeek, Google is trying to make the case that Google Wave is perfect for the healthcare industry. Google engineers will be making the case that their product is perfect for sharing health records between organizations at the USENIX HealthSec ''10.

The engineers, Shirley Gaw and Umesh Shankar, wrote a paper (PDF) titled, "Using the Wave Protocol to Represent Individual's Health Records" which makes the case for Google Wave in the healthcare industry. The paper states, "CCR [Continuity of Care Record] and CCD [Continuity of Care Document] are byproducts of walled gardens of care, where all inputs to the system came from the inside and were made by users authenticating to the same system. They do not match the more dynamic, messy, and distributed nature of aggregation---but this is precisely what end users, patients, actually want. And unfortunately this issue is not solved by the technology sector’s currently used protocols, such as REST-style (Google Health) and Database-style (Microsoft HealthVault) APIs in use."

To make the project a success they would also take advantage of the Google Wave Federation Protocol, which is designed to aggregate data and resolve data conflicts in a way that can be audited. "It's built from the ground up to collate multiple sources into a coherent whole," said the Google engineers. Currently the federation protocol allows Wave servers from different organizations to inter-operate.

There are a lot of benefits to opening up a system like Google Wave to share documents and health records between organizations but there is one big problem, privacy. To address this concern the two engineers said, "with providers being able to edit and see each other's data -- the patient's entire history -- is not a bug but a feature." They believe that allowing others to see the documents in a more convenient manner will encourage second opinions or follow-up exams that may lead to a better clinical outcome. The paper also stated that "diminished health record privacy" should not be a concern, any fears that the health insurance companies will discriminate against certain patients have been "mitigated by the recent health reform bill."

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