Google Health and HHS' AHRQ detail new pilot project helping patients prep for their doctor's appointment

The tool would help patients develop health questions for their clinician, and reminds them to bring along any necessary test results or other materials.
By Dave Muoio
03:33 pm
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Three images of the patient preparation tool

Google Health has teamed up with the HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to pilot an online tool that helps patients build a visit plan for their upcoming healthcare visit. The project was detailed in a Google blog post published yesterday, but subsequently removed by the tech company until it was republished this afternoon with no substantial changes.

So far only available "to a limited number of people in the United States," the tool is built on a list of recommended questions and other resources developed by AHRQ, according to the post. It allows users to ask questions about their upcoming encounter or select from a list of questions such as "What is this test for?"

With this, the tool provides a visit plan via print or email that helps patients remember what to ask the clinician, as well as a list of medications, lab results or other materials that they'll need to have on hand.

In the post, Google wrote that its tool is private and secure, and that the company does not store any of its users' health information. It also does not require users to sign into a Google account, and is accessible when users conduct a Google Search for their provider. The company said that it plans to expand the tool's availability to more users in the future.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

Patient engagement has long been tied to improved outcomes. Google and AHRQ's tool aims to encourage users to educate or prepare themselves so that they may make the most of their time in the doctor's office. It also seeks to open up an active dialogue between the patient and their practitioner, which has similarly been shown to increase the quality of their care.

“Patients who prepare for medical visits by prioritizing their questions, strengthen their role as members of their own health care team,” Dr Jeffrey Brady, director of the Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety at the AHRQ, said in a statement quoted in the blog.

“This helps clinicians maximize their time with patients so they can better address their most critical health needs. Clinicians appreciate that healthcare can be more efficient, effective, and higher quality when they work together with patients.”

THE LARGER TREND

The project looks to be a spiritual successor to Question Builder, the app-based version of AHRQ's pre-visit guidance that the agency released for free early last year. In addition to informational resources, that app also used the smartphone's camera to help patients photograph and upload important documents for their visit.

Online pre-visit resources have also been published over the years by well-known providers like the Cleveland Clinic and other government agencies like the National Institute on AgingPeerwell and Johnson & Johnson have also developed proprietary digital tools to help patients prepare and plan for operations.

This pilot project comes alongside a range of consumer-facing projects from the Google Health team and others under the Alphabet umbrella. In 2020, many of these efforts have centered on COVID-19, such as a Google Maps update that displays the prevalence of COVID-19 in a given area, or its high-profile contact-tracing API project with Apple.

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