A Personal Health Record Review site

The Downfall Of Google Health

Google has discontinued its personal health record service – Google Health. This has analysts from around the industry questioning if PHRs are a workable source of information in their current form.

Google Health used to take users’ medical records and bring them online. Users had to make personal profiles and add their medical information manually. This included conditions, medication, allergies, procedures, test results and immunizations.

Users also had an option of importing health records from Walgreens and other partners.

Good privacy options were available as Google would not share records with anyone unless asked to do so by the user.

Google health was later updated with a new look and feel which included new tools to let consumers monitor and record their daily physical activity, as well as help patients with chronic conditions like high blood pressure track their health-related goals.

Despite all these features, one might wonder what lead to the failure of Google Health. Consumers were unaware of personal e-health records. Many people heard about Google Health for the first time when its discontinuation was announced. This can be considered as one of the top reasons for its decline.

When Google Health was launched in 2008, Marissa Mayer, a Google executive, said it would be a “large ongoing initiative” that the company hoped would attract millions of regular users.

But after three years, in a posting which declared the discontinuation of Google Health, on the company’s blog, Mr. Aaron Brown, senior product manager for Google Health, said “Google Health is not having the broad impact we had hoped it would, but it did serve as an influential model.”

What did Google miss out on which made its health platform face a downfall? Was three years sufficient to judge the potential of Google Health? Lets have a look at possible reasons due to which Google Health was shut down –

1. Poor Consumer Knowledge On Personal e-Health Record

Consumers are unaware of offerings that allow them to electronically compile and manage their health data. Government initiated the HITECH Act in 2009, after which healthcare providers started paying attention to electronic personal health records.

2. Poor Marketing

An IDC Health Insights online survey of 1,199 consumers earlier this year found that only about 7% of respondents reported to have used a PHR. About half said that they haven’t been exposed to the idea of using a PHR. In a similar survey done by IDC five years ago, 52% gave the same reason for not using a PHR. This statistical data depicts the flaws in marketing Google Health.

Marketing strategy for this product needed to be strong and effective compared to other products considering health platform to be quite time consuming and toilsome.

3. Limitations In Importing Patient Data

Only a handful of providers were allowing patient data to be imported to Google Health like Cleveland Clinic, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Sharp Healthcare and few large national pharmacy chains like CVS and related partners like SureScripts.

One of the key attractions that could persuade patients to use PHRs is the facility to access scan and test results online. As Google Health lacked relationships with big labs, consumers could not avail this facility.

4. Consumers Prefer Physicians, Hospitals Or Health-Plan Portals To Keep Track Of Their Medical Records

Majority of the patient’s key data like test results are already available in the record supplied by the health care provider or a health-plan. Personal health records are used sparingly, unless the patient has a chronic or serious health issue.

When an occasion rises to use a PHR after it’s been set up, the patient might have probably forgotten that he/she had started a record.

5. Trust, Privacy And Security Concerns

Lynne Dunbrack, Program Director, IDC Health Insights, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare said “Some consumers undoubtedly feared that their health information would show up in a Google search.”

Such issues arise when consumers are not willing to trust corporations like Google or Microsoft with their personal health data.

Google officials said that they did not hear many concerns about privacy from consumers. However, some patients feared security and privacy which lead to thoughts that Google Health had some hidden motives in collecting their health data. This stopped them from using Google Health.

Though the privacy policy of Google Health stated that the health data will not be shared unless required / initiated by the patient, major misconceptions were prevalent which unveils the probable fact that Google did not publish and market Google Health in a right manner.

6. Convenience Features Dealing With Health Information Neglected

Secure messaging with healthcare providers and ability to schedule appointments were disregarded. Both these capabilities are typically found in provider portals offering PHRs.

7. Uploading Patient’s Medical Information Manually

While the user interface for Google Health had received praise, the process of bringing data into Google Health had not.

According to a recent IDC survey, 15.9% consumers who have tried PHRs and stopped using them said they didn’t want to spend time entering their data and 22% didn’t see value in doing so.

This means, loading medical information into the profile was a cumbersome task and it did not interest consumers and patients.

8. Doctors Were Not Involved

In order to achieve a set goal in the healthcare platform, one needs to lead with the clinicians. Appointment scheduling for leading doctors and dentists, expert advice on health care by roping in some established doctors would have made the services secure and trustworthy.

Without provider adoption and support, the success was limited.

9. Difficulty In Partnering With Insurance Companies And Labs

Matthew Holt, co-chair of the organization The Health 2.0 Network, told ReadWriteWeb: “Google became disappointed when they found out how hard it was to get insurance agencies to share their data voluntarily. They made some progress but not enough.”

With a small number of partners, patient data migration is restricted. This is unfavorable.

10. No Advertising Opportunity

Gabor Fari, the Director of Life Sciences Solutions at Microsoft, wrote that he believed the lack of advertising potential was what brought GH down. He wrote “I guess you can’t sell advertising to patients whose records you handle after all. They finally concluded that, so they are moving on.”

If Google had more patience with patients and doctors getting comfortable with personal e-health records, the service might have become much healthier.

Migrating From Google Health to Microsoft Healthvault

When Larry Page took over as Google’s CEO in 2011, he cut a number of projects including Google Health, a rival to Microsoft’s HealthVault introduced in 2008. Google urging its customers to move their data to Microsoft’s Healthvault was unanticipated.

All user health data on Google Health has been permanently erased on 2, January 2013.

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