Could Google+ Be Your Platform for Care Coordination?

An earlier post — Could Facebook Be Your Platform for Care Coordination? —  resonated well with folks.

Readers and commenters (on e-CareManagement and The Health Care Blog) quickly grasped that a social networking platform could play a very useful role in coordinating our health care, yet also agreed with the conclusion that Facebook wasn’t  “it”.

So let’s ask the question again: Could Google+ be your platform for care coordination? This post will

  • Describe Google+ and Circles
  • Discuss how Google+ gets past some of Facebook’s limitations as a care coordination platform
  • Comment on Google+ as a care coordination platform (promising, but too early to tell)

What’s Google+ and Circles?

Despite the failures of  Buzz, Orkut and Wave, social networking remains a top strategic priority for Google.

Last week Google introduced the Google+ project, a social networking service with a collection of tools. Specific tools include Sparks, Hangouts, Huddle, Photos, mobile, and others to come…

…but the one that’s most promising for care coordination is Circles. (Hat tip to Nate Osit, aka  @NateOsit, for pointing me in the right direction.)

The Official Google Blog helps us understand the thinking about Circles.

+Circles: share what matters, with the people who matter most.
Not all relationships are created equal. So in life we share one thing with college buddies, another with parents, and almost nothing with our boss. The problem is that today’s online services turn friendship into fast food—wrapping everyone in “friend” paper—and sharing really suffers:

  • It’s sloppy. We only want to connect with certain people at certain times, but online we hear from everyone all the time.
  • It’s scary. Every online conversation (with over 100 “friends”) is a public performance, so we often share less because of stage fright.
  • It’s insensitive. We all define “friend” and “family” differently—in our own way, on our own terms—but we lose this nuance online.

In light of these shortcomings we asked ourselves, “What do people actually do?” And we didn’t have to search far for the answer. People in fact share selectively all the time—with their circles.

In a highly readable and succinct ebook — The Real Life Social Network — Google UX designer Paul Adams draws the picture this way:


Google continues its description of Circles: You share different things with different people. But sharing the right stuff with the right people shouldn’t be a hassle. Circles makes it easy to put your friends from Saturday night in one circle, your parents in another, and your boss in a circle by himself, just like real life.

The digerati have heaped initial praise on Google+

Google+ is a marketing sensation

First Look Google+

Brief Thoughts on Google Plus

Google+ has great features — now it just needs people

Google+: A targeted response to Facebook’s shotgun approach

Can Google+ Succeed By Being Not Facebook

First Night With Google Plus: This is Very Cool

How Google+ Gets Past Some of Facebook’s Limitations as a Care Coordination Platform

Let’s revisit some of Facebook’s problems as a care coordination platform:

  • Facebook’s open social graph doesn’t fit well with people’s expectations of privacy in health care. Speaking about the open social graph, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” Maybe for you, Mark, but don’t speak for all of us.
  • Facebook’s privacy policies have done a 180 degree turnaround. The company started with the default being “private”, but today the default is “public”.

Google+ directly targets these perceived weaknesses:

  • Google+ Circles starts with the premise that people have more than one circle — the opposite of Facebook’s one-friend-fits-all approach. Dr. Kevin Pho (KevinMD) notes it is essential for doctors to be able to separate their personal and professional relationships.
  • Google+ defaults to private. Jesse Stay says Google+ takes it even one step further:

…the default privacy setting on Google+ is nothing. If I just post on Google+ without saying where I want it to go, no one but myself will see it. I have to specify a Circle just for anyone to see this. It forces me to make a conscious decision before I post as to who will be seeing my updates.

Could Google+ Be Your Platform for Care Coordination?

You can probably tell that I really like Google+.

But it’s too early to judge the potential of Google+ as a care coordination platform.  It’s promising, but many questions need to be answered:

  • Can Google+ overcome the strong network effects of Facebook’s 700 million user base?
  • Will people say “I just don’t need one more social platform”?
  • What types of applications will be developed to integrate Google+ into care delivery?
  • Despite promises of strong privacy, will people trust Google+?

Finally, recall that the major limiting factors in Facebook or Google+ becoming a care coordination platform aren’t technological — the problems are rooted in our health care non-system.

Google+ is definitely worth putting on your radar screen… if for no reason other than to watch two internet giant companies duke it out.


Thanks to xkcd

Table of contents for the series--Social Networks and Care Coordination

  1. Could Facebook Be Your Platform for Care Coordination?
  2. Could Google+ Be Your Platform for Care Coordination?
  3. Google+ Shines the Light on the Value of Data Portability

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