Does Google's New Browser Matter to Healthcare?

Unless you were completely asleep on Tuesday, you should have noticed that Google announced a brand new Web browser, called Chrome. Is it worth switching from Internet Explorer to Google's new offering?

Unless you were completely asleep on Tuesday, you should have noticed that Google announced a brand new Web browser, called Chrome. Is it worth switching from Internet Explorer to Google's new offering?

The answer to that question depends on what your employer or business uses the Internet for. At the moment, however, analysts are cautioning companies about making the switch.

The Internet browser market is becoming fairly crowded. Microsoft's Internet Explorer is still king, but that's largely because of inertia on the part of end users. IE is automatically included in all Windows-based computers. It's there, so people user it. Mozilla has offered the Firefox browser for years, and recently upgraded it to version 3. Opera Software also makes a very capable and advanced browser to compete with Microsoft. There's also Safari and Camino for users of Apple computers. With all this choice already available, it begs the question, do we really need another browser?

Google, set on becoming the dominant force on the Internet (if it isn't already), thinks so. What does Chrome offer that IE, Firefox and Opera don't?

Well, Google claims that the browser offers a simpler user interface and loads Web pages faster. Both of these are up for debate. The interface is definitely simple, but changes the mechanics of the browser interface that many are already used to (i.e., tabs appear above the address bar rather than below it). On top of that, Mozilla claims that Google's speeds tests are bogus and that its Firefox browser loads Web sites faster.

It does offer a few items that I really happen to like, and one is relevant to health care. One function is called "incognito". When surfing in this mode, no browsing history is created, no cookies or plug-ins are downloaded, no trace of where you have browsed is saved to the computer. The end result is greater user privacy. You won't have to worry about anyone being able to check where you've been. If you have an electronic health records system in your practice or organization, this could be a tool to comfort some patients.

It also allows Web-based applications, such as those made by Google itself (Gmail, Docs, etc.) to be used in separate windows on the desktop. In other words, you can treat them like actual applications rather than just another open tab in your browser.

But there's little else to warrant making a switch for now. Forrester Research analyst Sheri McLeigh told InformationWeek, "It's really premature from an enterprise perspective to really start planning for this." If you have a system in place that provides the results you need, there is no need to change things up just for the sake of change.