I'm back! Thanks for hanging around. I was away on a much needed vacay. And I'm stored up with lots to talk about, but have had little time to get around to it. So let's begin!
Last week, Google invited a bunch of developers to engage Google Wave accounts which puts us closer to the widespread launch of this, I think, great new tool. And while I am quite the advocate for the coming Google Wave – there have been other developments at Google that are also noteworthy that are on the way and that will provide useful tools in healthcare communications:
- Google Squared – It is called Google Squared, and if you don't know it, you will want to. Google Squared is in beta right now, so there are still issues that will need to be worked out. But by its virtue of its nature, it will only get better with time. Google Squared allows you to begin cooking up your own data base with search. When you get to the landing page, consider something you want to investigate and enter the term. It should be a category. Let's say you want to put together a universe of information about a particular thing. Say you want to know all about dogs. Type in dogs. You will almost instantly get a LOT of information about dogs. You will get the breed, height and weight for starters. But wait – what if you want more information – such as life span. Enter lifespan in the top of a blank column and you will get that information as well. You can keep adding fields of information to round out the information you want about dogs. See a breed you would like to get rid of? No problem, just click in the upper corner of that breed and its gone. See a field you don't really need? Not a problem. You can click on that one and get rid of it. Now you have everything you want? Great. Now you can actually export all of the information instantly to an Excel spreadsheet by clicking on the Export button, or you can save your squares. What does this have to do with health care? Ok, well now instead of dogs, let's say you want to know about diabetes treatments. Boom – you get a picture of them all and descriptive information built in the square. You get the drug name, a picture and maybe some information in fields that isn't particularly useful, like telephone number. But you can add in "half-life" and "bioavailability" and "excretion" and "formula" and you start having a very good picture of what's available. As I said, it doesn't always work perfectly, but you can work to build a very complete and informational square in no time. Interns, look out, you may have just been replaced!
- Google Fast Flip – Or otherwise called Flipper by me. Let's say you have reason to see not only news items about a particular topic that you could pick up on a Google News Search, but you wanted to capture the headlines in their actual mastheads, from which you could then take a screen shot. So enter a name into the search box, such as the name of a company or a person who merits news or a drug name. Here I'll make it easy and do one on Obama. Go ahead and put the name of your favorite company in and get the results. This may not blow you away, but if you want news in context, it is great.
- Google Sidewiki - This new part of the Google Tool bar is very interesting and not without controversy. Sidewiki is quite literally named. According to the Google Blog, it is a wiki that is a sidebar to any Web page you visit where you can insert commentary and see the commentary listed by others. This presents an interesting circumstance for medical product and other highly regulated industries who have sought to limit the content that users can generate on a site for fear of seeing an adverse event report or the promotion of a product off label. Because now, on any Web site, any user can comment about the content and others will be able to see it. Does that mean that a company now is responsible for what others say on a wiki sidebar that is attached to its site? Who knows? But it is worth discussing and pondering and being talked about at the upcoming Part 15 meeting that FDA is having on social media. And it is one more demonstration that social and digital media are far outpacing the FDA's ability to translate its regulatory jurisdiction over emerging technologies and that they have gotten started way too late to provide useful input, making the Part 15 meeting even more of an imperative.
That's it for today. Enjoy the toys – or not. But they are there to deal with.