Last week, former Wired editor Thomas Goetz and Google engineer Matt Mohebbi introduced health care leaders to their new health information resource, which offers an easy-to-use database of drug information by combining the worlds of technology and health. Their company, called Iodine, seeks to serve the public by offering “better information about thousands of drugs, built from clinical research and real life experience from people like you.”
Iodine’s database allows users to enter drugs of interest into a search engine, then presents basic information about the searched drug, its purpose, how it works, reported side effects, warnings, upsides and downsides of taking the drugs, prices and co-pays, alternative drug options and interactive tools for better understanding the drug. Iodine’s information about the hundreds of drugs in its database has been compiled during the past year through the ambitious use of Google Consumer Surveys as a research tool. More than 100,000 surveys have been completed and more are added daily.
Iodine Founder Goetz believes that Iodine is on its way to building the largest survey ever taken of Americans’ drug experiences. Combined with the survey results, Iodine publishes other data about the drugs including clinical research, physicians’ reports to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and surveys of pharmacists.
The goal of Iodine, according to its creators, is to build tools that will help people better understand their health and therefore improve their health care choices. They use real life experience in their database along with clinical research to hopefully yield new insights to consumers. Listed among its objectives, Iodine will strive to “reduce people’s fear and uncertainty about their health, enhance the dialogue between people and their health care providers, and create valuable opportunities for better care.” Iodine’s database has been certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy e-Advertiser program as a trusted health information resource.
Goetz and Mohebbi met in early 2013, beginning conversations about a company such as Iodine after they realized their shared interest in the combination of technology and health. Goetz told The New York Times, “It struck me that I could help make it happen, not just write about using data to personalize and improve health care.”
The news story goes on to report Goetz and Mohebbi intend not only to help consumers by compiling information about Americans’ drug use, but they also hope to help impact policy. Iodine’s creation, they say, is the result of the significantly increasing interest and investment in digital health care companies. Therefore, its founders believe, their applied research is directly addressing a known information gap in health care for both consumers and providers.
Iodine’s search engine offers a wealth of information about many drugs, including drugs whose side effects have proven to be controversial. For example, in 2013, red flags were raised about the occurrence of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer following the use of the type 2 diabetes drug Januvia. In the warning section of Iodine’s information about Januvia, it warns consumers that “Januvia can cause a sudden swelling of the pancreas. This can be life-threatening if not treated. Let your doctor know about any stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite that don’t go away.”
Goetz and Mohebbi’s innovative strategy has earned positive reviews and recognition thus far, and they hope to continue to provide tools to help the medical community’s connection with the general public. They invite those interested in their company’s work to follow @Iodine on Twitter for updates.