Google Health Dies – What Next?
by Dave Wilson on Dec 12, 2011
Back in 2008, Google launched its health platform – Google Health. It was an attempt to allow patients to control their own health record by uploading records to a Google site, and then granting privileges to their physician—thus making their health record completely portable. They even piloted this at Cleveland Clinic.
The intent was by “…using Google Health, physicians will be able to more efficiently share important diagnostic data with their patients. As patients become better informed and proactive in managing their healthcare, they may be more likely to practice preventive care, adopt healthful behaviors and practice other measures that promote improved medical outcomes.”
Well, as it turns out, Google wasn’t so successful. What!?! Google failed to make a go of something? How does a company that brought us Google, Chrome, Google Earth and the like not be successful in healthcare? Aaron Brown, senior product manager of Google Health, said the initial aim of the service was to offer users a way to organize and access their personal health and wellness information, and thereby “translate our successful consumer-centered approach from other domains to healthcare, and have a real impact on the day-to-day health experiences of millions of our users.”
And so here lies the problem that inundates healthcare. What Google didn’t realize was that people aren’t so willing to put their personal health records out in cyberspace as readily as they are willing to post their drunken party pictures.
Funny how that works.
Google then relaunched Google Health two and a half years later with a new UI and some more interactive tools. But alas that failed to catch on. Since then Microsoft Health Vault and Intel have offered to convert any Google Health files over to their format. The vultures are circling.
A personal health record has a lot of value if properly implemented. Ensuring that the content is accurate, that you can access this data from anywhere in the world and enable who you want to see your records is of immense value. Think about being on vacation and needing to have some healthcare treatment. If you have a cardiac problem, you can share your records with the local physician and they can see all of your medications (that you can’t spell or remember). They can see recent tests and the results and not repeat certain tests reducing your exposure to radiation and the like.
So what’s the problem?
The first issue: A personal health record that is maintained by a patient can’t be trusted by the physician treating the patient.
Patients may tend to put only what they want in the record. They may omit or even edit certain results, thinking that no harm can come to them. Who wants to share their positive HIV test or their mental health issues? How relevant is that to the chest pains they present with? In some cases the patient may even disagree with the results and omit them altogether. A personal health record that is not maintained by the parties providing the service is somewhat questionable when it comes to using it as a reliable source of information.
Second: Can we trust the Internet, the cloud and Google to maintain a level of security and privacy?
Most people do not trust companies to maintain their privacy when it comes to health records. Too many newspaper articles have front page stories where some hospital has leaked patient information. And recent stories about Google provide more proof that maybe Google has a conflict of interest in wanting to provide a personal health record. After privacy concerns were raised, Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, declared in December 2009: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines—including Google—do retain this information for some time and it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.”
Who would want this? Perhaps Eric Schmidt was the downfall of Google Health and didn’t even know it.
Personal health records have their time and place if properly administered, accurately maintained and controlled in a non-biased, healthcare managed way. But getting to this stage will be difficult with all of the issues that surround our need for privacy, not to mention the sheer task of trying to coordinate the massive amounts of data. Some facilities are doing this. Governments are investing in electronic health records, which may serve a similar purpose.
But today, personal health records are still something of a nice to have.
[...] And speaking of healthcare, did you see Dave Wilson’s post: Google Health Dies – What Next? [...]