Tracking the rumored death of Google Health

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 31, 2011        

Tags:  |

Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsNext week longtime Google CEO Eric Schmidt will hand over control to one of the company’s founders, Larry Page — a substantial restructuring that surely indicates other changes are likely for Googlers and their many projects. A report in the Wall Street Journal this week specifically calls out the company’s personal health records (PHR) offering Google Health:

“Some managers believe Mr. Page will eliminate or downgrade projects he doesn’t believe are worthwhile, freeing up employees to work on more important initiatives, these people said,” the WSJ reports. “One project expected to get less support is Google Health, which lets people store medical records and other health data on Google’s servers, said people familiar with the matter.”

It’s not the first time Google Health’s future has been called into question, but some believe the report is baseless:

“I think the demise of Google Health is a little premature to forecast,” well-known health IT thought leader Dr. David Kibbe told SearchHealthIT. “I’ve not seen sources for the WSJ article, and I’ve heard nothing to back up their opinion that Larry Page is going to decrease resources. My gosh, they’ve only had a few people at Google Health all along! It’s never been a big initiative for Google.”

Kibbe correctly points out that the Journal said Google Health will “get less support” not axed.

That didn’t stop one former AT&T employee from analyzing the implications of a world without Google Health in a blog post over at the Gerson Lerhman Group, which does not edit or endorse the blogs authored by its large base of loosely affiliated consultants:

“Google Health being dropped is a setback for Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) in three ways: 1) Widespread adoption through cloud access; 2) Time-to-market and payback; and 3) Cross-industry collaboration,” Greg Kail writes on the GLG News blog in a post called “Google Drops Health Project”. Kail’s only listed source is the WSJ post, which makes no mention of Google Health “being dropped.” ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley asked Google officials if Kail’s blog post was accurate, but a Google spokesperson gave her the standard: “We don’t comment on rumor or speculation.”

HIStalk didn’t see the need to confirm the rumor: “If they back out of Google Health, that ought to have a major effect on … well, nobody. PHRs are the consumer versions of EHRs — potentially useful technologies that, rightly or wrongly, aren’t all that attractive to their target audience in their current form.”

Chilmark Research’s John Moore told eWeek that Google Health competitor Microsoft’s HealthVault is focused more on the clinical data side, while Google Health incorporates more consumer wellness tools.

Meanwhile, a group of some of the leading fitness device and app companies are working together to open APIs and share their own data with each other — knitting together much of the same data that Google Health has promised to host. Wellness services including Zeo, RunKeeper, FitBit, WiThings and Digifit are all sharing data now.

So, while it may be true that rumors of Google Health’s demise have been greatly exaggerated — it may or may not be here in the new Larry Page era — a better question might be whether the platform ever really needed to exist at all.

  • Mathias

    Are there any infos on the user base of Google health
    I don’t know anybody who’s actually using it. Personally see health vault more advanced, although as mentioned above little bit different targets.

  • http://blogs.forbes.com/danmunro/ Dan Munro

    Brian – I saw the GLG post too – but clearly misinformed. Per Dr. David Kibbe’s comment – it’s not a huge effort to start – and this rumor has been circulating for some time. In fact, Dana Blankenhorn over at ZDNet chided them for their HIMSS10 effort ( http://bit.ly/bTccjw ) which was definitely lackluster. More recently (Jan 26) BI/SAI wrote an article “8 Google Products Larry Page Should Kill” – where #4 was Google Health ( http://read.bi/h7GFMs ). Net/net – hard to imagine they’ll kill it outright – but the larger issue here is the consumer risk of storing large amounts of PHI data (much of which is collected/entered by consumers themselves) in these kinds of services. You may recall – Revolution Health shut theirs down just over a year ago (Jan 2010 – http://bit.ly/bzL4dM ). KP seems to be having some success – but like VisTA for the VA – they represent unique/silo’d populations – and there have been similar challenges of getting the data out of those systems into other ones (ie: no portability). Is it any wonder consumer adoption has been anemic? This category of software – PHR – isn’t ready for prime time – and may not survive as a category at all. I like John’s idea (Chilmark Research) of a CHR – a Collaborative Health Record. So far, consumer commitment on the part of the big ISV’s continues to be really shallow. In typical fashion – the mindset there is that if they can’t “lock” the consumer – in the same way that they like to “lock” providers – they don’t want to commit resources (Google) – or $’s (Revolution Health).

  • Dave Albert, MD

    No one is using it so it will be no loss. DrDave

  • MobiHealthNews

    As far as I know, Google has not released adoption stats for Google Health.

    According to a survey published by California Health Care Foundation in April 2010 — 7 percent of American adults used PHRs, but that included tethered PHRs like the ones Dan discusses in the comment above. Google Health users make up a much smaller percentage.

    Some great info on user interest in PHRs in the study http://www.chcf.org/publications/2010/04/consumers-and-health-information-technology-a-national-survey

    25 percent of those polled who do not use PHRs currently were interested in using one offered by Google or Microsoft.

  • MobiHealthNews

    That’s not true. Some people are using Google Health so if it were to completely disappear — which IMO would require more effort from Google than it has put into supporting GH since its launch — there is a group of people who would be very upset.

    I bet Google Health has more users than your iPhoneECG, for example, Dr Dave. : )

  • http://twitter.com/jkvedar Joseph Kvedar

    if google health is indeed dropped, it is simply an acknowledgement that we as a society have not given individuals a compelling reason to invest the time and energy in storing their medical information on line.

  • http://twitter.com/SheetalDube Sheetal Dube

    Google Health doesn’t have the user base it had hoped to have. I would love to see Google health go through an overhaul that would use the principles of lean startup and truly address the consumer needs. It has the opportunity to be a role model and set the standards for healthcare products.

  • http://twitter.com/SheetalDube Sheetal Dube

    I has done a study on PHRs last year with a small sample size. The overall finding was that users found it hard to use Google Health. They preferred using spread sheets to manage chronic conditions. Here is the link to the study http://slidesha.re/cN5EGx

  • johnsetting

    Good! Who can trust Google with an individuals health records anyway? Not me.

  • Sherry R

    To see if the google health patient will live or die simply take a look at it.. It has been in hospice for a very long time. Do you enter your checking information by hand into Quicken or Mint? So why would you do it for medical data?

    The key goal isn’t a repository should be an interactive communication portal that combines a real time view of your clinical data (EHR) with a patient section (PHR) not a stand alone product with one way communication.

    In Mint this would be similar to automatically importing all of your bank and investments and adding some cash transactions on the side PLUS being able to communicate with your care team.. The PHR is just a safety deposit box.

  • Pingback: Official: Google Health shuts down because it couldn’t scale | mobihealthnews

  • Inspire

    Google and Microsoft have no business in the healthcare industry. There are other people with passion and innovation that do not reside in Silicon Valley…

    I have been to some of the conferences and these guys are missing the point. They can keep trying all they want but they will fail. Just because you graduate or “drop out” of Harvard and make an app, it does not mean you are a medical genius.

    There will be some new players with the right intentions who know the technology and understand the struggles of the patient and internal system…those will be the ones who help save the world. Wait and see…