Google Health relaunches, targets wellness audience
Two and a half years after its launch, Google Health has unveiled a "top-to-bottom" redesign – with a new focus on attracting a users who want to "actively manage their health and wellness."
The revamped personal health record (PHR), which went live Wednesday morning, is still a place where one can aggregate and organize all of one's health information – medical records, prescriptions, immunizations, conditions. But "in the last several months we've stepped back to say, 'what can we do that's more than just this notion of a personal health record?'" says Aaron Brown, senior product manager at Google.
The aim, he said, was to "expand the value and utility of this tool to a broader set of users."
The traditional PHR is "extremely valuable to a specific type of user: someone with medical problems, or someone who's a caregiver for someone who has medical problems," says Brown. "But a big class of consumers care about health and wellness and aren't necessarily going to the doctor more than once a year." Instead, they "may be trying to lose some weight or fighting type 2 diabetes, or trying to sleep better."
So Google Health has done "a complete overhaul of the user interface" to make the PHR more appealing and more intuitive to use.
Whereas before the focus was on importing records and exploring outside health services, the visual hub now is a dashboard-like page of graphs and charts that allow users to work toward health goals and track how their medical data changes over time.
The interface can easily be personalized and customized. "Any metric you can probably imagine can get mapped into one of these trackers and built into this dashboard," says Brown – from glucose levels to cholesterol to coffee consumption.
Click on a particular topic – blood pressure, say – and a user will arrive at a detailed page that shows data over time, with flexible controls to view it in different time frames and contexts. There's supplemental information alongside it – both licensed content and search results from Google News, Google Scholar, and more.
There are also fields where users can keep a diary of sorts, tracking their reactions to medications or making notes on the outcome of a jog or a workout.
Google Health has also taken steps to make it easy for users to enter data to the site. "If it's hard to enter data, if it's time consuming, people just don't do it," says Brown.
To that end, the site links with devices such as FitBit, a belt clip with accelerometer and wireless radio that can measure steps taken, calories burned, distance walked each day – all information flows directly to the dashboard. It also interfaces with the Withings wi-fi scale: step on and weight and BMI data is relayed to the PHR. The popular CardioTrainer app for Google's Android smartphone also links directly to the dashboard. Even before the relaunch, more than 50,000 users have uploaded information about 150,000 workouts to Google Health, says Brown. "There's a definite interest."
While there's been a lot of focus on trying to get data integrated, and connecting to hospitals and the medical records therein, says Brown, "at the end of the day, if the consumer doesn't know what to do with that information, or isn't looking to act on it, the tool doesn't get much engagement and doesn't attract the broad use that it could."