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Interview with Adam Bosworth, formerly of Google Health

by JMoore

August 18, 2008

Adam Bosworth made quite a name for himself in the healthcare space while he was leader of the Google Health initiative. All got quite strange, however, when while on vacation late last summer, Bosworth decided not to return to Google Health. And while Bosworth went into stealth mode to develop Keas, Google chose not to replace him (a mistake) and Google Health fell under the tutelage of Marissa Mayer.

Bosworth has kept a very low profile since leaving Google, but Matthew Holt was able to get an interview with him, which Matt posted today. Roughly 35 minutes long, it is a good interview to listen to if you have the time. If not, here are my take-aways, with some commentary in italics:

Despite Holt’s prodding, Bosworth gives tells little of what happened at Google that led to such a sudden departure. Bosworth claims that he decided he wanted to work in a small, entrepreneurial environment that was nimble without a lot of “processes”. This rings hollow as he worked at Microsoft and BEA prior to Google, both very big companies. I’m not sure what happened at Google, and not sure anyone will ever know the full story, but clearly, more happened than Bosworth is ready to divulge.

His new company, Keas, has 15 employees, is about 6 months old and is looking to provide consumers with the personalized information they need to better manage their health. Boy does that ever sound familiar and I could probably rattle off about 15 Health 2.0 type companies claiming to do the same thing. Bosworth will be at the upcoming Health 2.0 conference so maybe he’ll divulge more there. Right now, all I see (should I say heard) in this interview is a company with another me to product. Barriers to entry for such products are quite low, but risks are high. Just look at the Health 2.0 poster child Xoova, which appears to have gone up in flames. This whole Health 2.0 stampede takes me back to the glory dot com days when everyone was talking about how all procurement was going to move on-line and multipleon-line markets were created for various industres. There was a land-rush and the spectacular bust. We may be seeing the beginnings of something similar occurring now in the Health 2.0 market.

Bosworth sees a clear need for better consumer tools to manage their health, tools that leverage Personal Health Information (PHI). Surprisingly, he thinks there is enough digital data today (labs, medications & images) to provide significant value if it is leverage correctly. He praised the efforts of Google and Microsoft, particularly Microsoft, (hmm, that’s odd) for their efforts to collect this type of data into a consumer-controlled data repository. He also sees biometrics playing an increasing role as well. I believe this is where Keas will focus its attention - creating a solution that leverages PHI for structured search and presenting actionable information for the consumer to take preventative actions.

He sees the big adoption hurdle as not being the consumer, but the physician. Bosworth believes that a compelling motive for physician adoption and use of HIT has not been presented. Bosworth and I both agree that eVisits may be the silver bullet. Concurring with my recommendation to Sec. Leavitt in July, Bosworth stated that CMS can take a leadership role here by aggressively supporting eVisits, which may kick-start physician adoption. Gets back to the old, ‘Show me the money!”

Bosworth also commented on the privacy concerns surrounding a Google Health or Microsoft HealthVault. Some consumers will be comfortable with these offerings, others less so. He foresees more such platform plays entering the market to serve other segments of the market that do not want their PHI in a Google or Microsoft type entity, e.g., a non-profit. He also stated that for Google and Microsoft, a breach in privacy would be a disaster, thus they take extraordinary measures to insure that PHI is secure within their repositories. As I’ve stated before, I am in total agreement with his perspective on privacy as it pertains to Google and Microsoft. Do disagree on his belief that there will be a proliferation of platform plays. Simply makes no economic sense as these are expensive to build and pull a criti