The death of Google Health: Twitter reactions

By Kelly Mehler
04:32 PM

By now, the news coverage of the loss of Google Health has probably hit an all-time high. The opt-in service will be deactivated by January 2012, and Google officials say any data that remains in the database after that point will be permanently deleted.

Although the service will end in January of 2012, users' data will remain available for them to download through January 1, 2013. The option to delete the information will also be available.

Introduced in 2008, the endorsed reasoning behind the demise of the PHR tool is that it was unsuccessful in drawing in users beyond those who are exceptionally tech-savvy, therefore leaving out a majority population.

"(Google Health) failed to find a way to translate that limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people," Google officials wrote in a blog post last Friday.

Now that we've gotten the low-down on the how and why, we decided to ask Healthcare IT News social media followers for their reactions. After all, you can read as many news articles as you want, but healthcare IT folks are the ones who could be most affected.

Healthcare IT News Twitter follower @brut4core is convinced the arrival of Google Health wasn't effectively heralded. "Unfortunately it was not exposed well and possibly the cause of its demise. Bad advertising for a company that runs on it."

This assertion may be valid. Earlier this year, research firm ICD Health Insights reported that only 7 percent of healthcare consumers had tried online personal health records.

"The data has to come to life on the provider side of the fence," tweeted @ForwardHealthGp. "Sallah says in Raiders of the Lost Ark: 'They're digging in the wrong place!'"

Lynne Dunbrack, analyst for ICD Health Insights, added that personal health records have been a technology long in search of a specific market. It is possible that Google was not adequate.

@BrickerHlthLaw, the Twitter account for Bricker & Eckler LLP's Health Care practice group, agrees with Dunbrack. "What we're wondering = if Google cannot make a go of PHRs, can anyone?"

Still, some believe Google Health was a starting point in highlighting the significance of patient engagement and promoting self-discipline within healthcare.

"Many more people use a PHR provided by their hospital or general practitioner, which is not quite the point of a PHR," Andy Oram, Twitter user @praxagora wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "You see many practitioners over the course of your life and your data ought to be integrated in one place where you can always get it."

Oram may have a point. The disregard for Google Health could be evidence that people just do not care. If so, what does this say about the future of PHRs?

@kathytpham, Google Health intern in 2007, remains optimistic. "So much potential, so many great minds... sad end, but many awesome health IT projects in the works."

 "#GoogleHealth was ahead of its time," said @WivodaCons, representative for Wivoda Consulting, a healthcare IT consultancy based in northern Minnesota. "Privacy concerns (mostly unfounded) and lackluster acceptance of ANY #PHR killed it."

Although these Twitter users seem glum about the situation, the overall feeling on social media platforms regarding the loss of Google Health is one of ambivalence. There have been few non-healthcare professionals saying much on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

"It was good to start a discussion [on PHRs], but it never really followed through for patients and doctors," remarked Government Health IT Twitter follower @h404shank.

Keith Boone, also known in the healthcare IT social media realm as @motorcycle_guy, puts it plainly: "Right idea, wrong product."

Some argue that Google Health was bound to fail. After all, it would probably be near impossible to implement if HIPAA laws applied. If a company like Google, with nearly $30 billion in annual revenue, cannot keep the side-project operating, then who can? 

Perhaps that's another social media debate put on the table.