Rise and Fall of Google Health

I was going through some notes from 2008. Eric Schmidt of Google announced Google Health at HIMSS 2008. Google pulled the plug in 2011. What happened?

In the Google implementation, your personal health information will not be given to anyone without their explicit permission, which is not true completely for HIPAA-compliant systems. If we get a subpoena, we always check our judgment as to whether the subpoena is narrow enough. If we think it’s a fishing expedition, we will fight it in court. That has worked well for us so far.

At that time, Google Health and Microsoft's HealthVault were the two PHRs that decided to fight it out. Google quit, HealthVault still chugs along.

Among several reason why Google Health did not work out:

  • It did not involve Physicians (and EMR systems).
  • Google found it tough to partner with Insurance companies - Insurances companies tend to be a walled garden.
  • Poor Marketing and Poor support for users. Even an EMR pioneer like me struggled to use it.
  • Perceived waste of time by users. Young people did not care to enter data themselves, and to those that PHR mattered most just couldn't do it. It was too cumbersome.
  • Google could not find a way to popularize it, or figure out a way to bring in partners to monetize somewhere.

I think HealthVault will probably go down the same route as Google Health.

The main reason is that EHR systems now have sophisticated Patient Portals built in. Secondly, with MU2 and beyond, interoperability will eventually become a reality, making true secure data exchange possible, irrespective of PHR platform.