Google Health Is Alive and, Er, Well
Google has debunked a blog post by an analyst claiming that Google Health, the company's effort to help patients access their personal health records from any computing device through a secure portal, is dead or in stasis.
John Moore, founder of health care technology analyst company Chilmark Research, wrote May 28 that Google Health has "struggled to be relevant" since its launch two years ago.
Moreover, Moore added:
Google Health has not dedicated the resources to build out this platform into a truly engaging ecosystem of applications to assist the consumer in managing their health or the health of a loved one. ... Rumors are now floating about that this lack of relevancy, this lack of a true commitment to Google Health has led to that oh so fateful executive decision -- pulling the plug on Google Health and either letting the team go or reassigning them to other divisions within the organization.
A Google spokesperson told eWEEK this couldn't be further from the truth:
We continue to invest in Google Health -- we see it as a multi-year effort and think that finding ways to empower consumers help solve important problems, in health information and beyond, is very much in line with our corporate mission. As we demonstrated at HIMSS [the health care show held in March], we continue working to add new features and grow our ecosystem of new partners with Google Health, and will have more to share in the coming months.
A source familiar with the company's plans told me there has been no executive decision to pull the plug on Google Health and new people continue to join the team.
"The project is alive and well from a staffing perspective," the source told me.
That, of course, doesn't mean that Google isn't shuttling off or firing existing Google Health product people and bringing in new blood. That could explain the quiet around the service; the last news blog about it was published March 1 for HIMSS, when Google said it had integrated with drug prescription network Surescripts.
It is now June 2. By Google's measure, and by the measures of many modern high-tech companies, three months is a long time to go without any news.
Google itself acknowledged the methodical evolution of the service in that post, in which Alfred Spector, Google vice president of Research & Special Projects, said the Health team has been "analyzing feedback from our user surveys and field studies to help make Google Health more useful and relevant to a broad set of consumers on a daily basis."
Read the post and you get the idea that Google is building more tools to help users personalize, customize and track their own medical information. The company is also pursuing integration agreements with providers.
That was three months ago, though, so you understand Moore's concern. He further wonders whether Microsoft's rival HealthVault service will languish if Google Health is dying or being put into stasis (Moore's merciful euphemism for a slow, eked-out death):
Though HealthVault has come a long way in improving the user experience, it remains a more trying experience. With Google Health put on the proverbial shelf, will HealthVault no longer be pushed as hard to continuously improve the user experience.
More broadly, he's concerned about the health of the PHP (Personal Health Platform) market at large.
My feeling is the world isn't ready for accessing personal health records online en masse just yet. No concrete reason, just a hunch. For many, the current system works okay.
Most people don't access their health records with the frequency with which they check their bank accounts. Google Health, HealthVault and any like service may be better suited for high-tech hobbyists.
If Google and my source are to be believed, Google Health is feeling fine. It just needs time to grow. Lacking any info to the contrary, we Google Watchers will have to wait and see.