Another Potential for Semantic Search – The Google Wheel

The week before Thanksgiving, I wrote a post about a great new example of evolving semantic search citing an example provided by LinkTV at their newly launched site.  The point is worth raising because the semantic web may be the next generation of search and if so, there are plenty of things for everyone in health care to think about with respect to how it might more specifically guide patients, caregivers and physicians seeking both information and community on the Internet.

Today I want to point out another potential tool that is in its infancy in this regard, but has the potential to develop into another type of powerful search tool that provides more context to search than occurs today with a simple search.  It came to my attention when I attended the Google Think Health 2010 in New York at the end of September.

It is called the Google Wonder Wheel.  Wonder Wheel is available when you perform a simple search on Google and you get your page of results.  To the left you will see a bolded heading called “All Results” and under that heading you will see “Wonder Wheel”.  If you click on Wonder Wheel, you will see your search put up on the screen with several offshoots that allow you to explore specific topical areas related to your search.  Here is one I did using the search term “diabetes”  –

A WonderWheel
What you see is that in the center, you have the Wheel with its many options for you to consider.  To the right, you have some more resources related to diabetes as might show up in your regular simple search to which you are already accustomed.  Here is the Wheel close up:

A Wonder Wheel 2

Here on this search, one sees different types of diabetes as spokes, along with information on diet. The Wonder Wheel presents some interesting possibilities and questions.  How are the topical areas for the spokes chosen?  Can they be optimized in any way?  How does a wheel provide a balance of choices with a search term as broad as diabetes between treatment and prevention and resources and advice?  And, of course, are there any regulatory aspects to be considered here and what are they?

Healthcare is one of the main reasons people use the Internet and search, yet the medical products industry is ironically far behind other sectors in anticipating new developments and responding to them, due in no small part to the lack of regulatory clarity in this space.  However, advancements aren’t waiting.  It is possible that semantic search may one day assume a more prominent role and it is a good idea to explore now, rather than catch up later, how the health care industry might utilize this new tool.

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