“Users can sign up at www.google.com/coop/directory to subscribe to free health information from several organizations, including the federal Centers for Disease Control, the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente. Their tips on the best health data will show up in search results.”
Click here to view Google’s new health portal.
What’s interesting about this service is that Google is not taking responsibility for vetting healthcare content. Instead it is relying on the “wisdom of crowds” to aggregate and rank high-quality healthcare information. Google is asking those interested and knowledgable about healthcare (patients, consumers, pharmaceutical companies, etc.) to submit Web sites that they feel are reputable (after signing up to the service). Users who subscribe to these "user feeds" will have access to content "tagged" by these individuals/organizations when they conduct searches on Google.
In addition, Google has partnered with a number of government, medical and public health organizations to “tag” reputable Web pages that will show up prominently in search results (click here for an example).
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post focusing on the implications of Google Health. With the launch of Google Co-op, I think it is appropriate to review and answer the questions I posed about Google Health.
My Question: Who (or what) will decide what information is important?
My Answer: Google is relying on a mix of healthcare authorities and the general public to help it determine what information to highlight. This approach is solidly in the tradition of Web 2.0, which allows ordinary citizens to determine what is important and what is not. This means that it is possible credible healthcare bloggers will be featured in searches on various conditions like diabetes, cancer and depression.
My Question: What will be highlighted -- corporate or individual information?
My Answer: It looks like Google Co-op will highlight information from corporate entities and individuals, based on the types of links people select. (Interestingly, it looks like some people would like to see information from pharmaceutical companies included in search results based on this question posted in Google’s forums.)
My Question: Who will decide what is credible?
My Answer: Again, Google has chosen to let the masses decide what is credible. In my opinion this is a good strategy.
My Question: How will Google handle inappropriate content or government censors?
My Answer: It is not clear whether/how Google will handle inappropriate content. With many people selecting sources, poor content is bound to slip through. However, if it becomes known that someone is not selecting credible sources, people will not subscribe to their content “feed.”
In addition, I suspect that this service will be prone to the same censorship issues Google faces with other search services.
That’s it for now. Over the next few weeks, I’ll explore the service and report back on my observations.
(P.S. See Enoch Choi’s interesting post on his experiences as an individual contributor to Google Co-op. It will provide you with a “ground-level” view of what it is like to participate in this new service.)