Google Health - Too Early to Market?

By Jon Mertz
09:29 AM

Few are surprised by this NY Times headline – Google to End Health Records Service After It Fails to Attract Users. Rumors and expectations of this announcement have been in the market for several months now. Reality has struck. Google Health evaporates.

As Lynne A. Dunbrack, an analyst at IDC Health Insights, pointed out in the article:

“Personal health records have been a technology in search of a market.”

Although this may be partly true, I would argue that the health IT infrastructure is not in place to support a truly easy-to-use and valuable personal health record (PHR).

We have written before about how the Mint model should really be the one we strive for as a PHR. Part of the reason Mint works in the personal finance market is that individuals can electronically pull in their financial data from almost any institution. Just try to pull in your personal health data from multiple hospitals, physician practices, labs, and imaging centers. It will not work today!

Why? The critical health IT infrastructure and healthcare standards are not adequately in place.

As John Moore argues in his post entitled RIP Google Health:

“Engaging the consumer/patient most often begins at the doctor’s office. If you do not get the physician(s) involved, actively promoting the patient to use such tools as Google Health and likewise do the hard work of creating value for the physician it may be nearly impossible to gain real traction.”

Health IT infrastructure, physicians, and citizen-patients must all come together to make this work.

Will we get there? I believe we will. More importantly, our health care system really depends on it. We literally cannot afford to continue in such a manual, disconnected manner.

The NY Times article highlights two supporting elements required to make PHRs work: Individual Responsibility and Meaningful Use (the five-year campaign referenced):

“In the drive to apply information technology to health care, personalized health records are the element that relies most heavily on individual motivation and efforts. They are controlled by the consumer, and require individuals to put in, update and edit their health data. By contrast, the federal government has begun a five-year campaign to accelerate the adoption of electronic patient records by hospitals and doctors, with the incentive payments to physicians topping $40,000.”

We, as citizen-patients or iPatients, need to take an interest and active ownership role in our personal health care and understand the programs and initiatives unfolding in our health care system. We need to be engaged.

Additionally, we need to get our health records in a digital format and then electronically movable. This is the goal, and mission, of the HITECH and Meaningful Use initiatives.

As Google Health disappears, the PHR model will not, in my opinion. PHRs are not optional; they are an imperative, a necessary element to make our health care system work better.

We need to have the ability to manage our personal health portfolio just as we manage our personal financial portfolio.

It will just take time, so the following can happen:

  • The Health IT infrastructure needs to be implemented and ready to support electronic patient data and the secure exchange of it.
  • Physicians need to implement and adopt electronic health records (EHR) and then encourage their patients to get their relevant data electronically after each visit.
  • iPatients to be ready to demand adoption of electronic health records by every physician and then embrace their health and manage it just as they do their financial portfolios.

The disappearance of Google Health should not discourage our efforts. In fact, it should motivate us even more to drive the changes required.

Google Health was here before its time. However, now is the time to continue our efforts to advance the value and adoption of electronic health records — EHR and PHR, a necessary combination.


Jon Mertz currently serves as the vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. His experience consists of a unique industry mix of healthcare software, IT infrastructure, sales & marketing consulting, and government. Jon has led several marketing organizations, conducting market research, developing customer programs, and working with partners to deliver complete customer solutions. Past companies and organizations include Deloitte, IBM, BMC Software, US Senate, and US Department of Commerce. He blogs at