A Clinical Infusion of Google Wave

Getting beyond the hype and anti-hype over Google Wave, I’ve been exploring and experimenting with the collaboration platform since my invitation. While learning the new features and interacting with others on the service, I’m gaining some appreciation for the underlying technology Google claims will revolutionize how we communicate and collaborate.

I plan on a few more detailed posts and screencasts demonstrating Wave’s features, but here are some general ideas (at this point I’m running on science fiction) about how Wave (or its future analogues) could be used in a clinical setting. For a general overview, Mashable offers a comprehensive guide. I’ll offer a simple overview, but the main point of this post is to help answer the question: Does the underlying technology of Wave offer us any glimpse into improving clinical collaboration? It’s something ER physician Tim Sturgill asked recently (see his Person, Story, Data mock-up).

First the basics:

  • A Wave is the main component of the service – think of it is the main whiteboard containing all of the content and media to be generated, edited, communicated and collaborated around.
  • A Blip is the most basic unit of a Wave – similar to an IM message or a tweet.
  • A Wavelet is a thread of blips within a wave. You can have multiple wavelets within a wave.
  • Extensions: these invoke and provide additional functionalities beyond the basic communication basics of the service. There are two types: Robots and Gadgets.

Advanced Features: Robots & Gadgets:

It’s hard to visualize what a Wave Robot does, but in essence it “infuses” a wave with one or more functions. (I’m leaving out discussion of Gadgets in this post.) This is where Wave can get confusing but it’s also where Wave’s powers potentially shine. Here’s a list of Google Wave Extensions and Google’s samples gallery.

For example, there’s a robot called Cartoony which converts blips into cartoon bubbles. Surely this is frivolous, but when you see it in action, you realize what I mean by robots “infusing a wave with functionality”.

Another, more utilitarian bot is BingyBot, which answers participants questions. If you type a query, BingyBot acts like a regular participant offering you answers. Here’s short  video of it in action:

It’s these abilities of robots to infuse a wave with rich features which could prove useful in a clinical setting. Let me explain with a sci-fi hypothetical.

For purposes of this example we will set aside HIPAA & other privacy matters. Tall order, I understand – but I want us to envision what’s possible. Imagine a wave created by a physician in which she assembles key data about a patient’s admission, including media such as videos or images of diagnostic or surgical procedures.

Around those data elements, our physician could invite colleagues into the wave for clinical collaboration, opinion, etc. Similar processes are already being used in some facilities, but the next part is where Wave’s protocol gets interesting.

Remember the BingyBot? Now imagine introducing a clinical bot which is powerful enough to provide pertinent information to enhance the entire collaborative effort. Let’s call it ClinyBot. Say the bot can access research data or even link to relevant clinical trials for which the patient/case relates.

In essence, the bot would act as another participant to say something like Given the set of data I’m seeing, you may find this article on an experimental anti-neoplastic agent of interest. Or It seems like this patient may be a possible candidate for this clinical trial. Or Dr. Smith had these thoughts about this patient’s condition last week. You get the idea.

ClinyBot would “infuse” the clinical collaboration wave without being intrusive. And the bot could even be modified by the clinical collaborators during the wave according to their needs. Rather than clinicians pulling away from their patient data screen to perform research via another interface, the research can be done within the wave in real-time: either by manually invoking a particular function or letting robots do some of the work.

This is a new kind of collaboration because not only are human beings collaborating real-time around the same problem, a sophisticated piece of technology becomes a collaborator as well. We already have a robotic collaborator we use everyday: Google Search.

Yes, It’s Sci-Fi-y But So Was The Web

Does Google Wave represent a significant step forward in collaboration? I’m reserving judgment until I see development of its API – the current interface does not support proper filtering, notifying or other ways to curate and manage the copious flow of information.

Nevertheless, Wave tests users’ willingness to adapt communication skills to new media. It would be nice to see at least a mock case illustration of clinicians playing in a sandbox.

Of course ClinyBot itself is a figment of sci-fi imagination currently, but the thought-experiment demonstrates why clinicians may want to invest a little time understanding what the underlying technology of Google Wave may do for enhancing collaboration – and ultimately improving patient care.

If this is your field then do this: take a snapshot of where we are today in clinical collaboration and look out through the lens I’m offering; then find some realistic place in between and start building tomorrow today.

PS: This post started out of this wave (which, for now, you only see if you have a Wave account).

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Healthcare on Google Wave

Google Wave is one of the latest products to be rolling out of the never-ending stream of real-time social media technologies. I’ve been experimenting with Wave for a little over a week and still have much to learn.

Wave may be an impressive collaboration platform for small groups but it is not a terribly great public social medium – at least not just in its present form. If developers can build filtering and other utilities on top of Wave’s API, then the protocol may eventually empower new kinds of social media.

Here’s a little test I’m conducting. Below is list of several healthcare people on Google Wave initiated by @ahier. If you have a Google Wave account, you will be able to see the embed. If you don’t have one, you’re out of luck. :( Sorry! But bookmark this page and come back when you do and you’ll see what this wave embed looks like and get a sneak peak of what can be done with Wave.


If you don’t have an account, here’s a screenshot of part of what the embed looks like:

Google Wave EmbedGoogle Wave Embed

Currently, you need an invitation to Google Wave. Stay tuned for more about Google Wave by subscribing to this blog. Hopefully by then you’ll have a Wave account and won’t feel so teased. :)

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Social Media and the Monetization of Common Sense

CAUTION: The video below is not safe for work or children or for those easily offended by George Carlin’s Seven.

I don’t like the phrase Social Media. Do you? Maybe you do, but I’m sick of it. Why? Because it’s a term that’s hyped and overused and oversold and largely vague. And yet those of us who are interested in online social technologies and their relevance to enterprises, health care and our lives in general almost have no choice but to use it. So it’s with much amusement to see the video below circulating on Twitter.

I suppose because of my blogging about the technology and marketing, organizations find me in Google and approach me to help them with their online business needs. Much of what I do is free because I enjoy helping others who haven’t been paying attention to what happens on the web and can’t imagine taking pay for setting up a Twitter account. What I find, however, is businesses need orientation and problem-solving: it’s not social media that’s their problem – it’s their, well, problems. You can learn these tools and your own (and in my opinion, you have no excuse not to). When the right kind of client decides I’m the right kind of person to help them out, the value is recognized. Don’t pay for free.

Anyway, here’s the video. It’s hilarious. More importantly, there’s truth here about the monetization of common sense. Enjoy.