Google’s Olohan: Digital disruption is here to stay


PHILADELPHIA — “Digital disruption will cure health care.” That’s the bold statement that Ryan Olohan, Google’s national industry director of health care, used to start his talk, last week at the 8th Annual Emerson Group Retail Industry Day, in which he shared how truly forward-looking companies are innovating beyond the scope of their businesses.

Olohan pointed to a number of disruptions in today’s healthcare market that are fundamentally changing how people interact, engage and pursue health. For example, today there are self-care diagnostic tools that, when coupled with a smart phone, can be used as part of a telehealth consultation with a doctor. No longer will a mom taking care of a child with an ear infection have to locate the nearest emergency room for after-hours pediatric care.

“We have the data to show every single day of the entire year when people are looking for ear infection online,” Olohan said. And according to that data, more than a million people are searching for information on ear infection at 4:30 a.m. every morning.

“Literally everything a doctor can do for you can now be done through digital with new technology,” he said. “There’s an argument being made that we have a massive doctor shortage. I would argue that if we do this right and consumer behavior actually catches up to technology, we’re actually going to have a doctor surplus.”

Today marketing health care to consumers is about winning the moment, Olohan said.

“Technology has changed; the consumer has changed,” he said. “When we talk about winning the moments that matter — what are people doing today? What are your customers doing?” he asked. “It’s all search, social and video. And mobile of course comes through all of that.”

 As many as 1-in-20 searches on Google today are healthcare-related, Olohan said, which is staggering when you consider there are more than one billion Google searches every day.

Olohan said there are four questions every healthcare marketer should ask:

  1. Are you leveraging the data?

  2. Are you winning the moments that matter?

  3. Is your company positioning for 10% growth, or 10x growth? 

  4. Is your leadership adapting to the changing digital paradigm fast enough?

“Our job … is to help people live better and healthier lives,” Olohan said. “If we do our jobs well, and if we get the world connected, so much good can come out of it.”

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