Friday, June 24, 2011

An Update on Google Health

Google is retiring Google Health per the announcement below.

A few thoughts
*Google Health has the best user interface, feature set, and ease of use of all the stand alone personal health records
*Google Health is truly innovative and broke new ground when it created interfaces to hospitals, labs, and pharmacies in 2008.    I was there at the beginning and can definitively state that it was Google's reputation and vision that broke down the political barriers keeping data from patients.
*Google will be using the Direct standards to enable patients to transmit their Google Health data to Microsoft Healthvault and other PHRs

Thank you to Google and the Google Health team.  You really moved the industry.

Dear Google Health Partner,

As we just announced in the Official Google Blog, we will be discontinuing the Google Health service and platform over the next several months. For more context around this announcement, please check out our blog post.

Going forward, we recommend that you notify your team and discontinue any current development around your Google Health integration. Also, you’ll need to remove the integration functionality as well as Google Health related text and logos from your website as of January 1, 2012. Please consider this as our notice to terminate our agreement with you on the Google Health API Terms and Conditions, found at

We truly appreciate your partnership and support of the Google Health service.

Best regards,

The Google Health Team


Rob Fraser said...

This is really sad. I agree we have a lot to thank them for, Google Health moved the bar forward, without a doubt. I'm just a bit sad to see such a talented and visionary group move away from the health space. We have a long way to go, it will be sad to those their strength in the race to develop PHRs.

Joseph Sucher, MD FACS said...

First, I would say that I was disappointed with much of this Google offering. "Innovative".. hardly. "Best user interface"... I would call it Spartan and unimaginative.

Did Google push the PHR forward. Yes. But, so too did Microsoft and IBM. However, their offerings are not that much more interesting or useful (yet).

We have to step back and analyze why Google Health and other PHRs haven't had a significant impact. The answer: because it isn't what patients need.

Patients need a medical record home that is created at the physician level, and co-managed by the patient. To explain further; The information flow needs to begin at the medical professional level. It needs to be updated and managed by the medical professional. AND the patient needs to have direct access to this information for the purpose of maintaining oversight and input. Wherein, the patient helps to ensure that the information in the record is correct. In addition, the patient, having oversight, is able to question his/her providers of care about what is in the record.

Google Health, and other PHRs mainly rely on the patient managing and editing their own health information. This bottom up approach will never work for at least three reasons. One, the patient doesn't always get reliable information transferred to them. Two, many people simply don't have the time or take the time needed to update the details of their healthcare. Three, the information complexity can become too unwieldy and complicated for most people to maintain on their own without professional input.

I believe that BIDMC and a handful of other advanced institutions had an approach similar to what I advocate. My recollection is that BIDMC had an interface from their EHR to the Google PHR. Unfortunately, we simply don't see this happening nationwide. Why? I suspect that it's because it costs money .. and it's money that most institutions simply don't have. Additionally, this information was really a one-way process. If all the data just travels from the institution to the PHR, and no information travels from the PHR to the institution, then there is little incentive for the institution to create such a service.

In conclusion, I don't see the PHR becoming a significant force in patient care until we get to the point in which we have a truly global patient record, where all information can reside and exchanged from many disparate sources. All parties must win for this to work. The medical providers need good information as much as the patients for whom we care.

Sai Subramaniam said...

This is sad considering that it was Google that abandoned.We need work to go on.

Online PHR will work only if it starts in the doctor's office - when physician consultations and health records are tightly linked. There is no incentive for users otherwise.

Check out as an attempt to bridge the doctor's office and the patient.


Danny van Leeuwen said...

I agree with Dr Sucher. As a nurse, informatics person, and patient I want a PHR that I can access, share, and manage with my many physicians. The BIDMC EHR is great and useful. Yet some of my data is on the Mount Auburn Hospital site that can be accessed from BIDMC but is not integrated. My primary care doc uses eClinical Works, not integrated or linked. I could download data into Google PMR but required much manual work. Haven't had a chance to share it. Going to 2 new docs soon. Can't provide any health data to them through any EHR or PHR.

Chintan said...

This is sad indeed. As an developer of one of the earliers apps (TrialX) on Google Health. It is sad to see it go.

Here is my personal perspective:

Peter Bachman said...

I have a PHR as part of a major EHR vendor which has a web interface which I find to be not very useful so I re-entered the data in various PHRs to see how well they worked.

I had already gone through the steps of filling out data manually on Google Health, NMC, and Healthvault and then wanted to update it the other day.

Thinking my medical provider finally would have electronic access enabled for transfer over some mutually acceptable protocol I contacted them and was told "we don't talk about our proprietary systems" due to our security policy.

After locating the actual approved security policy (which was online) it was well written and logically directly contradicted their statements.

I asked them to then document this "policy" which they were citing, and of course they could not do so.

Now imagine how a patient not aware of their civil rights would react to this attitude by a professional administering and securing a large scale EHR.

Several emails back and forth failed to convince anyone on the staff that the "P" in HIPAA, which they felt stood for proprietary, perhaps stood for something else.

So when Google Health announced that they would be opening up transfer of the data I had put in previously, that seemed very responsible way to exit.

This way I can use Direct and get that data into Indivo, and then further customize it down the road with whatever apps are subsequently developed with that API.

Dealing with the people who are in the forefront of health records development makes one forget that in the trenches there is significant education required.

P. M. Hollott said...

I also had an account on Google Health, which I rarely made time to attend to, though I applaud the intent behind the application. It seems to me that the important work that Google (and other search engines) have really contributed to the field of Health Informatics is training the populace as technicians skilled in using a simple search interface. 10 years ago, people were intimidated by computers and online data. Now, thanks to Google et al, nobody flinches at using simple search interfaces; Google Health was just that little more involved and time-consuming, and people apparently want to spend hours a day following each other on Facebook instead.

Mike Posch said...

Perhaps the reason these solutions are losing traction is because they do not actually provide any utility to the patient.

In healthcare, it may just be that we have become accustomed to systemizing things for the sake of systemizing. A portable PHR has a vast amount of promise, but it is not very likely to gain traction unless it actually proves to make the patient's life easier.

Going into the doctors office and filling out form after form on history is an annoying process. Site's like Google Health and HealthVault have (or had, in Google's case), what I believe was some initial appeal in that they could make that repeated form process go away for the patient. Anyone who went online and filled it out a profile, however, would soon become aware that it did nothing of the sort - it only tricked them into filling out all these forms one extra time, in one other place. The information proved isolated in the same way that is isolated in their previous provider's medical records system.

Clinicians reject documentation systems for the same reason - it doesn't make their life easier, and in some cases is more burdensome (it may be that it helps someone else, but that is not pertinent to the individual). Institutions have certain leverage to make clinicians adopt; however, and that same leverage is not easily waged among the patient population.

If Google was aligned with some of the major EMR vendors, AND patients could go online and see if the information they were entering would transfer to their particular doctor, I think adoption would have been much, much higher.

MammaGeek said...

It's a shame that Google did not decide to stay on the course. The problem is as others have said was too little value for the consumer but that is the way things are at the
Beginning of most consumer centric initiatives. Remember the early stages of online banking? Didn't take off until bill payment became a feature which people found convenient and banks found "sticky".

PHRs are early in their evolution and I for one believe that unless our system of care changes so that everyone has a PCP who coordinates care, the only answer is to give individuals the tools to do that coordination on behalfnof themselves and their family.

There are plenty things not in the medical record that only the patient knows about. Added to that, researchers hungry for more information than just what's in the EMR.

with the Android platform