Google Health to be shuttered

By Mike Miliard
04:56 PM

It's been rumored for some time, and today it was finally confirmed: Google Health, having failed to "catch on the way" the company "would have hoped," will see the lights go dim on Jan. 1, 2012.

The personal health record is one of two projects – the other being Google PowerMeter – being retired by the Mountain View, Calif.-based firm. Both were "based on the idea that with more and better information, people can make smarter choices," according to a Google blog post on Friday, "whether in regard to managing personal health and wellness, or saving money and conserving energy at home."

Ultimately, however, the two ventures "didn't scale as we had hoped."

[See original stories about Google Health going live and Google Health's relaunch, targeting wellness audience.]

Writing on that blog, 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."

Alas, he wrote, the past several years have shown that the site "is not having the broad impact that we hoped it would."

While certain tech-savvy segments of the population were quick to adopt, the millions of people necessary to bring Google Health's promise to critical mass have failed to flock to the site like its creators would have hoped, and haven't shown the inclination to integrate it into their daily lives like they have with massively popular features such as Gmail or Google Docs.

"That’s why we’ve made the difficult decision to discontinue the Google Health service," Brown wrote.

The site will stay active "as usual" through January 1, 2012. Users will be able to access and retrieve their health data for one full year beyond that.

It can be download in several formats, such as printable PDF, unified ZIP archive, HTML and XML, or continuity of care record (CCRs) that can be "imported into other personal health tools such as Microsoft HealthVault." After that, any PHI remaining on Google Health will be "permanently deleted."

In the near future, says Brown, Google will also be adding the ability to directly transfer data to services that support the Direct Project protocol.

"This approach to download and transfer capability is part of Google’s strong commitment to data liberation principles: providing free and easy ways for users to maintain control of their data and move it out of Google’s services at any time," he writes.

[See also: Musings on PHRs & Consumer Engagement.]

While the abandoned project will doubtless be considered a disappointment by many, Google hopes its personal health record has at least "raised the visibility of the role of the empowered consumer in their own care," Brown concludes, emphasizing that "[we] continue to be strong believers in the role information plays in healthcare and in improving the way people manage their health."