February 10, 2016

Wide ranging reactions to the closing of Google Health

Google recently announced that they will be shutting down Google Health, a service that was clearly ahead of its time.  According to Google “certain groups, such as tech-savvy patients, their caregivers, and fitness enthusiasts used Google Health, but they never found a way to translate that into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people.”

Reaction to the shut down has been somewhat muted but there have been some interesting things written.

Dr. John Halamka, the author of the Life as a Healthcare CIO Blog wrote that “*Google Health had the best user interface, feature set, and ease of use of all the stand alone personal health records….. Thank you to Google and the Google Health team.  You really moved the industry.”

A Computerworld article titled Why Google Health Failed:  Too little too soon said that “While it (Google Health) offered people a way to store health information in a centralized online location, Google Health was mainly an aggregation service with little to offer mainstream consumers other than an online scrapbook of medical information.”

Dave Chase, the CEO of, a health technology company said in a thoughtful guest post on Tech Crunch that the issue was one of “Money. Or in the language of healthcare—Reimbursement…… Google Health was doomed to fail in light of the legacy reimbursement model.” He continues later in the article by saying “if the reimbursement model doesn’t change Personal Health Records will remain irrelevant for most healthcare providers. At best, we’re seeing Electronic Health Record vendors release so-called Patient Portals that are often driven more by a marketing objective than a clinical objective. Further, they are flawed in that they are a one-way broadcast of the silo’ed information from only one healthcare provider.”

Chilmark research offers a slightly different idea saying that there just wasn’t enough there for the consumer.  “Few consumers are interested in a digital filing cabinet for their records. What they are interested in is what that data can do for them. Can it help them better manage their health and/or the health of a loved one? Will it help them make appointments? Will it saved them money on their health insurance bill, their next doctor visit? Can it help them automatically get a prescription refill? These are the basics that the vast majority of consumers want addressed first and Google Health was unable to deliver on any of these.”

Katherine Rourke at EMR and EHR wrote that she believes there are three take aways from the Google Health Failure.   “1).  Clinical data projects that aren’t interoperable are eventually going to wither away  2.) Without a live, fluid source of data, PHRs don’t matter 3.) PHRs must be run by a trusted intermediary, and marketed vigorously to patients, before patients will take heed.”

I personally see great value in being able to store health information in a digital locker and Google Health provided the locker.  However, the missing piece was the ability to download accurate information from multiple, trusted sources into that digital locker.  In order to download information from those sources real standards will need to be set and widely accepted.  In the world of secure online banking it took about 10 years for those standards to become accepted and used in large numbers by consumers.

Google will officially pull the plug on Google Health at the end of this year.


  1. Janice Murray says:

    I think Chillmark’s comments are accurate.  Consumers/patients do not want to just record their information electronically – any spreadsheet can be used to do this.  What they really want is to be able to access health information from their physician’s EMR, be sent lab test results, track conditions for monitoring by their physician or health team, refill prescriptions book appointments and so much more.  Only a robust Personal Health Record with this functionality built-in and the ability to securely exchange information can do these things.

  2. I agree, but asking a small practice to be able to provide that level of
    secure communication between their chosen EMR and a patients PHR is a tall