After suggesting that Google would make money on Google Health by placing ads, and after reading my peers' coverage that Google really, really just wants to help the good of mankind, I've had a change of view.
It's not what you think—at least not a 100 percent turnaround.
I still think Google will make money from this. But after thinking about the annoying pharmaceutical advertisements that I see on TV about Cialis, Viagra and Lunesta, I realized that people will probably be really annoyed if they see the same ads on their Google Health pages.
So, I don't think Google will put paid links on Google Health, and I don't think it will find a way to customize ads for that portal. Rather, the company will earn money from ads independently.
If you think about it, the people who use this will likely already be Google users. By providing another service for them to join, Google is just increasing stickiness and user loyalty. Moreover, Health users new to Google who get turned onto Gmail and other apps will boost traffic for the site and pave the way for more ads.
But putting ads directly on Google Health? No, I think the health portal is pretty sacred, even for the online ad money-making engine of sheer genius that Google has evolved into. Just because it has the appearance of a common Google app like Gmail or Sites, doesn't always mean that Google will monetize it.
I've become so used to Google adding ads to pretty much everything it sticks its long, long fingers into—paid links, mobile ads, gadget ads, video ads, mobile-brand image ads—that I just assumed ads were the logical next step for Google Health.
In hindsight, there is a higher probability that Google could charge a subscription fee to users who consume a certain amount of storage. For example, a chronically-ill person with more than a handful of irksome maladies that stores a dozen megabyte chomping X-rays will clearly consume more storage than the average Joe.
Via Checkout, Google could charge people who surpass a certain amount of storage. But before Google even thinks about charging, I think Google Health has to gain traction with several users and by extension a track record of superior security and privacy.
My eWEEK colleague, John Pallatto, has a fine post on this always tenuous issue. Privacy will need to be portable; all or nothing sells the service for most people.
Looking forward, the company has agreed to open APIs for third parties to poke around it, and it will be interesting what sort of future functionality we might see.
For example, will programmers synchronize blood-pressure monitors and other medical devices to the portal? Google Health Product Manager Roni Zeiger suggested this is a possibility.
And you can't have a health initiative that doesn't span the globe. It just won't work, so Google will need to make this universally available or it won't be regarded seriously.