Tag Archive for 'Microsoft HealthVault'

Google Health: R.I.P.

The announcement that Google Health was being discontinued shouldn’t be a surprise.  In March the Wall Street Journal reported that once Larry Page took over the CEO role at Google he would be looking to cut projects:

Some managers believe Mr. Page will eliminate or downgrade projects he doesn’t believe are worthwhile, freeing up employees to work on more important initiatives, these people said. One project expected to get less support is Google Health, which lets people store medical records and other health data on Google’s servers, said people familiar with the matter.

There have been a number of retrospectives written today already, most concerned with the future of PHRs. For example:

It just goes to show you that being a pioneer does not guarantee long-term success. Microsoft HealthVault has done a much better job with device integration than Google Health did. There are many other factors that will determine the viability of PHRs in general though.  Adoption by the general population and a revenue model to support growth are just a few.

UPDATE (6/25/11): Mr. HIStalk’s take is the lead in Monday Morning Update 6/27/11. Two quotable statements:

Why did Google Health fail? Simple and obvious: consumer demand for personal health records is close to zero, which has always been the case and probably always will be.

Probably true.

Google predictably did what its know-it-all technology company predecessors have done over the years: dipped an arrogant and half-assed toe into the health IT waters; roused a loud rabble of shrieking fanboy bloggers and reporters…

OK, but how do you really feel?

Seriously though, I think Google’s foray in the Healthcare space was no different then how they approach any other market: “If we build it, they will come.”  If they don’t come, we pull the plug. Google has a graveyard full of products that suffered the same fate.

UPDATE (6/26/11): Some more:

UPDATE (7/1/11):

Access to Medical Data: Are PC Standards and PHRs (You) the Answer?

Dana Blankenhorn’s article Give medicine access to PC standards makes some good points about the medical device industry but (IMHO) misses the mark when trying to use PC standards and PHRs as models for working towards a solution.

I’ll get back to his central points in a minute. One thing I find fascinating is the knee-jerk reaction in the comments to even a hint of government control.  How on earth can someone jump from “industry standard” to a “march towards socialism”? We saw the same thing at this summer’s town hall meetings and in Washington a couple of weeks ago.  The whole health care debate is just mind boggling!

Anyway, let’s focus on the major points of the article. First:

Every industry, as its use of computing matures, eventually moves toward industry standards. It happened in law, it happened in manufacturing, it happened in publishing.

It has not happened, yet, in medicine.

Very true.  In the medical device world, connectivity and interoperability are hot topics. A couple of recent posts — Plug-and-Play Medicine and Medical Device Software on Shared Computers — point out the significant challenges in this area.  In particular, the development and adoption of standards is a very intensive and political process. But where’s the incentive for the industry to go through this? Dana’s comment addresses this (my emphasis):

The role I like best for government is in directing market incentives toward solutions, and not just to monopolies or bigger problems.

The reason health care costs jump every year is because market incentives cause them to. Those incentives must be changed, but the market won’t by itself because the market profits from them.

Only government can transform incentives.

Like it or not, this may to the only way to push the medical industry to do the right thing.  But those other industries didn’t need government intervention in order to create their standards.  Using PC (or other industry) standards as a model for facilitating medical data access just doesn’t work.  The health industry will have to dragged to the table kicking and screaming, and the carrot (or stick) will have to be large in order for them to come to a consensus.

Second, I don’t see the relationship between the use of PHRs and the promotion of standards.

By supporting PHRs, you support your right to your own data. You support liberating data from proprietary systems and placing it under industry standards.  You support integrating your health with the world of the Web, and the benefits such industry standards can deliver to you.

Taking responsibility for your own health data is great, but both Microsoft HealthVault and Google Health are proprietary systems.  Just because your data is on the Web doesn’t make it any more accessible.  And even if one of these PHRs did became an industry standard, it would have very little impact on how EMRs communicate with each other or medical devices in general.

There are no easy answers.



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