Google Health has seemingly been stuck in neutral almost from the start. Despite the fanfare of Google’s Eric Schmidt speaking at the big industry confab, HIMSS a couple of years back, an initial beta release with healthcare partner Cleveland Clinic and a host of partners announced once the service was opened to the public in May 2008, Google Health just has not seemed to live up to its promise. Chilmark has looked on with dismay as follow-on announcements and updates from Google Health were modest at best and not nearly as compelling as Google’s chief competitor in this market, Microsoft and its corresponding HealthVault. Most recently we began to hear rumors that Google had all but given up on Google Health, something that did not come as a surprise, but was not a welcomed rumor here at Chilmark for markets need competitors to drive innovation. If Google pulled out, what was to become of HealthVault or any other such service?
Thus, when Google contacted Chilmark last week to schedule a briefing in advance of a major announcement, we were somewhat surprised and welcomed the opportunity. Tuesday, we had that thorough briefing and Chilmark is delighted to report that Google Health is still in the game having made a number of significant changes to its platform.
Moving to Health & Wellness
Wednesday, Google announced a complete rebuild of Google Health with a new user interface (UI) a refocusing on health & wellness and signing on additional partners and data providers. Google told Chilmark that the new UI is based upon significant user feedback and a number of usability studies that they have performed over the last several months. Rather than a fairly static UI (the previous version), the new UI takes advantage of common portal technologies that allow the consumer to create a personalized dashboard presenting information that is most pertinent to a consumer’s specific health and wellness interests and needs. So rather then focusing on common, basic PHR-type functions, e.g., view immunization records, med lists, procedures and the like, the new UI focuses on the tracking of health and wellness metrics. This is not unlike what Microsoft is attempting to do with MSN Health and their health widgets that subsequently link into a consumer’s HealthVault account, though first impressions lead us to give a slight edge to Google Health’s new UI for tracking health metrics.
A particularly nice feature in the new Google Health is the consumer’s ability to choose from a number of pre-configured wellness tracking metrics such as blood pressure, caloric intake, exercise, weight, etc. Once a given metric is chosen, the user can set personal goals and track and trend results over time. There is also the ability to add notes to particular readings, thereby keeping a personal journal of what may have led to specific results. And if one cannot find a specific health metric they would like to track, the new platform provides one the ability to create their own, for example the one in the figure below to measure coffee consumption. Nice touch Google.