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Lending a Medically Guided Hand

In tonight's State of the Union address we heard:

"For all Americans, we must confront the rising cost of care … strengthen the doctor-patient relationship … and help people afford the insurance coverage they need. We will make wider use of electronic records and other health information technology, to help control costs and reduce dangerous medical errors. We will strengthen Health Savings Accounts – by making sure individuals and small business employees can buy insurance with the same advantages that people working for big businesses now get."

There is no doubt that with the cost of healthcare soaring, employers have been shifting more of the cost burden to employees - it hasn't gone unnoticed that GM says its healthcare expenses add $1,500 to the cost of a new automobile. The Health Savings Account, and who will benefit, is a bit more contentious - to wit, a sampling from Matthew Holt's The Health Care Blog. And universal, seamless electronic medical records are the stuff that IT supplier and systems integrator dreams are made of.

But there's a more fundamental issue at work. With credit to Hippocrates on the Medical Blog Network, we found a Steve Pearlstein quote from his Washington Post article, "With Health Care, First Fix Terms of Engagement".

"Moreover, we know that by its nature, health care is a highly imperfect market. It suffers from tremendous 'information asymmetries' between sellers (doctors, hospitals and insurers) and buyers (patients)."

We've spent quite a bit of time thinking about the imperfect nature of information in the U.S. healthcare market - it's what drives our "Medically Guided Search". Erick Schoenfeld talks about this in his a recent Business 2.0 blog, saying "guided navigation is definitely the next step in search." Guided search seeks to reduce the friction between consumers and the complex, and often opaque, health information they're seeking.

Matt Marshall provides a glimpse of this by suggesting in a recent SiliconBeat post - "Type in 'ACL' into Google, and you get mostly irrelevant pages. Try narrowing your search by typing 'ACL knee' and you still get quirky results like one from www.financeprofessor. You might eventually find some good pages, but you're often at a loss for what else is out there on your topic."

But searching for ACL on Healthline produces a completely different experience. Links that appear under Broaden Search ("knee injuries") and Narrow Search ("causes", "prevention", "diagnosis", etc.) are presented because Healthline's Medically Guided Search experience incorporates concept indexing and a taxonomy developed by physicians and medical informatics specialists. And for an even richer experience, the ACL HealthMap provides a complete visual overview and navigational aid to help the consumer move more quickly from search to discovery.

Giving consumers more control over how they spend their healthcare dollars is one thing - but creating a more perfect information marketplace will ultimately improve the return on each and every healthcare dollar spent.
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The Healthline Editorial team writes about the latest health news, policy, and research.

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