It’s official, Google is in fact walking away from Google Health, the way overhyped, way underused personal health record platform. In a posting on the Google Blog today, Aaron Brown, Google Health’s senior product manager, said the company would “retire” Google Health Jan. 1, 2012. (Data will be available to download until Jan. 1, 2013.)
Google also decided to wind down another experiment, Google PowerMeter.
From the post:
When we launched Google Health, our goal was to create a service that would give people access to their personal health and wellness information. We wanted to 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.
Now, with a few years of experience, we’ve observed that Google Health is not having the broad impact that we hoped it would. There has been adoption among certain groups of users like tech-savvy patients and their caregivers, and more recently fitness and wellness enthusiasts. But we haven’t found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people. That’s why we’ve made the difficult decision to discontinue the Google Health service.
In the end, while we weren’t able to create the impact we wanted with Google Health, we hope it has raised the visibility of the role of the empowered consumer in their own care. We continue to be strong believers in the role information plays in healthcare and in improving the way people manage their health, and we’re always working to improve our search quality for the millions of users who come to Google every day to get answers to their health and wellness queries.
Google said it soon will install functionality to help current PHR users migrate their data to other services following the Direct Project protocol, in the spirit of “data liberation.” That’s nice, but data really needs to connect with EHRs, or doctors and patients simply won’t use PHRs. Period.
I’m also going to take issue with Google referring to Google Health and Google PowerMeter as “trailblazers in their respective categories.” Google didn’t blaze any trails in PHRs. Dozens of other, smaller companies that have been working on the concept of PHRs for a decade or more are the real trailblazers.
The bottom line on Google Health? Google came into healthcare arrogantly believing it could save healthcare from itself and be all things to all people. (See also: WebMD, circa 2001.) It leaves with its tail between its legs.
Healthcare really does need disruptive outside forces, but it has to be a product people want to use. The iPad qualifies. Google Health never did, nor has any other untethered PHR to date.
Last month, I asked if anyone has been successful with an EMR for mental health. I wondered if an iPad might make it easier for a psychotherapist to take electronic notes during a session without making the patient feel like the computer was getting in the way, because a desktop PC certainly would be a distraction. I also wondered about where mental health fits in the realm of truly comprehensive EHRs.
(Yes, I make a distinction between EHR and EMR here, since, while it’s important to have a complete medication list to avoid harmful interactions, there’s little reason why an orthopedist or dermatologist would need to know whether a patient had been diagnosed with a mental illness. The same goes for records of sexually transmitted diseases or any other condition that patients may not want a lot of people to know about.)
I got a partial answer on Monday, when I interviewed Justin Bayless, president of Bayless Behavioral Health Solutions, which just launched a portal to share patient records with other caregivers, insurance companies, case managers, educators, probation officers and skilled nursing facilities. (See my story about this in InformationWeek.)
EMRs do indeed have a role in mental health, even if it’s mostly administrative. “It saves therapists a lot of time because it automatically generates forms,” Bayless said of the Credible Behavioral Health Software EMR that Bayless MHS clinicians carry on laptops to treatment sites such as assisted living facilities, nursing homes, schools and community centers. (That’s a quote you won’t see in the InformationWeek story.)
And segmentation of behavioral health information from other parts of a comprehensive EHR won’t be too much of an issue for a while—Bayless believes it could take 10-15 years—since so many providers still use paper right now. Remember, psychologists, addiction counselors, licensed clinical social workers and any other mental health professionals that aren’t psychiatrists (i.e., anyone without an M.D. or D.O. degree) don’t count as eligible providers for “meaningful use” purposes.