Back in April I posted information on HealthBlog about Medstory, the medical search company that had recently been acquired by Microsoft. I interviewed Medstory founder and CEO, Dr. Alain Rappaport, who I have known for nearly a decade. Alain and I first met while I was co-founding a venture-backed technology company aimed at facilitating physician-patient communication and collaboration. Little did we know at the time that many years later our paths would cross once again under Microsoft's umbrella.
Dr. Rappaport called me last week to say that Medstory is now fully integrated with MSN’s Health and Fitness site. He wanted me to be among the first to know and invited me to take it for a test drive.
After navigating to MSN Health and Fitness, I initiated a search on Prostate Cancer. Right away, I noticed that my search yielded Medstory's unique and rather colorful “dashboard".
The dashboard is made up of categories. Under each category is a list of related health topics that are most pertinent to the search being performed. The color bar next to each topic illustrates its degree of relevance to the subject of the search. For instance, one of the categories for a search on Prostate Cancer is Tests and Procedures. The most relevant topic in that category is the PSA Test. When I click on PSA Test, I have the option of refining my search to include both Prostate Cancer and PSA Test, or PSA Test alone.
Should I decide to search for both terms, the most pertinent articles containing both terms will be revealed. I'm given similar choices each time I conduct a search adding a third, fourth, or fifth term to my list. I also have the option of jumping to articles that are associated only with the new term I'm selecting from the dashboard. I also have the choice of using a "Site Search Results" tab that only reveals articles on MSN, or "Health-Related Web Results" that will return health information from all across the worldwide web. Note that the categories include Complementary Therapies and Nutrition; two that will be especially popular with consumers.
Prior to founding Medstory, Dr. Rappaport had had an illustrious career in artificial intelligence research and data mining. He says he turned his attention to improving how consumers and clinicians find and use medical information because healthcare is an industry that is driven by information. It is not enough, he says, to provide links to information. Search engines must become intelligent enough to understand a user’s intent. “We need a web that knows versus one that just links”, said Dr. Rappaport. “We are moving the center of gravity of search to return an understanding of what the user wants. Our core objective is to provide meaningful information that is also actionable.”
Dr. Rappaport said he teamed up with Microsoft because of the opportunity to engage with customers and partners all around the world who are now coming forward to help us innovate and use this technology. “Even in parts of the world where populations are medically underserved", he said, "providing relevant and timely information, will make a difference”.
Of course, this is just the beginning of many health related applications and services for both consumers and medical professionals that you'll be seeing from Microsoft and our partners in the months and years ahead. But for now, the next time you are seeking information about health or wellness, navigate over to MSN Health and Fitness and take Medstory for a spin. I think you will like what you see.
Bill Crounse, MD Worldwide Health Director Microsoft Corporation