Care Management– 21st Century Population Health Must Incorporate Google

By: Dr. Igor Shumskiy

In the 21st century, any successful population health management strategy must employ Google as a vital tool in its offering. Sure, this might sound a bit counterintuitive; Google is a place where health misinformation flows freely. But, has healthcare realized that 7% of all Google searches are health-related? That’s 1 billion health questions googled every day! 😳😬

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts it, “population health brings significant health concerns into focus and addresses ways that resources can be allocated to overcome the problems that drive poor health conditions in the population.” 

Patients searching the web for answers are often underinsured, uninsured, or well aware it will take weeks to get in with their primary care provider. This is a terrible set up for delayed presentations to care and unnecessary ER visits. Both of these drive worsening health outcomes. 

How Google Impacts Care Management and Population Health

This relatively recent shift to Google for primary health advice should be a major concern for every pop. health team. Don’t think your members are searching Google before they hit your emergency department (or even worse, an out-of-network ED) and rack up a high bill? Think again. A Penn Medicine study discovered that more than half of patients presenting to the ED/ER had searched Google about their chief complaint throughout the week prior to presentation. I take that to mean:

  1. These are less likely to be emergencies 😂
  2. There was ample time to intervene and prevent this visit! 

Looking for a patient-centered way to reduce costs and stretch your population health resources? I can’t think of a better way than Google to quickly reach millions of your members across the country, or the thousands of patients in your local network. If you’re not finding ways to intervene during this crucial first step of your patients’ journey, you aren’t at the top of their minds.

Population Health Requires Partnerships

The CDC also views population health as a customizable approach that utilizes “non-traditional partnerships among different sectors of the community – public health, industry, academia, health care, local government entities, etc. – to achieve positive health outcomes.” 

Basically, it takes a village. 

Can we collaborate across sectors to funnel high-risk patients away from untrusted and unvetted online health info to a more professional digital location? We believe so, which is why we built Nurse-1-1. Imagine if every one of your high-risk patients felt like they had a close friend or family member who was in healthcare and was just a text away, 24/7. 

A Customized Approach to Care Management

A customizable approach is what high-risk patients need to stay engaged, healthy, and out of the ER. That’s why Nurse-1-1 intervenes at the moment that patients are about to scare themselves on Google. We connect these anxious and concerned patients with the most trusted health professional, a nurse, for a low-friction, HIPAA-compliant text messaging conversation. Nurses are great at bringing “significant health concerns into focus,” providing patients empathy, and influencing them to seek the appropriate level of care. 

Which option does your pop. health team want your high-risk patients using? 

  1.  A Google search as a primary mode of health information, just like the other millions of people running searches today, or
  2. An experienced, knowledgeable nurse or mid-level provider offering empathy, reassurance, and guidance

Next time you’re considering the best ways to allocate your limited population health funding, I strongly recommend you consider thinking about your anti-Google search strategy 😍, especially if you don’t already have one.