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Another Tiny Step Forward by Google Health

by John Moore | March 04, 2009

disappointmentEver hoping for a viable competitor to HealthVault, we keep waiting for Google Health to kick it up a notch.  But alas for us and the broader market, it continues to look like HealthVault is putting distance between itself and the other two consumer “Health Clouds” Dossia and Google Health.

Earlier today, Google brief us on a new feature that they are announcing this afternoon (ck the Google Blog).  We waited in anticipation thinking “Oh, this is going to be good.”  Maybe they’ll announce portability with HealthVault, or better yet a big data source partner, like Kaiser-Permanente (KP has already signed on with HealthVault), or how about something as mundane as support for the CCD standard, a standard HealthVault has been using to its advantage to attract the likes of Aetna, KP and United Health Group.  We could go on and on as to the possibilities, but you get the idea.

No such luck.

What we did get was a briefing on a new sharing feature for Google Health.  This capability allows a Google Health account owner to share their record with others via a straight-forward share request process.  About the only thing required of the “sharee” is that they have an existing Google account or establish one.  Google stated that this is done to insure that the sharee agrees to the T&C for Google Health and also allows the account owner to see who has accessed their account. Google created the share feature in response to requests from current  Google Health users.

During the call, Google also informed us that they have released two new features in late December without any fanfare.  The first is the ability to print one’s record in one of two formats, either a small wallet-size format with the most critical information or the complete record in PDF.  The other feature is an ability for an account owner to graphically represent their lab results.

OK, so why the disappointment?

First, the sharing capability that Google Health is unveiling is about as simplistic as it gets.  There is no capability for an account owner to selectively tag and share information in their account.  If you send out a “sharing request” the sharee sees absolutely everything.  Second, there is no capability to annotate the record, it is simply read only.

Second, graphing lab results is no big deal and surprised it took them this long (7 months) to get it out there. Talk about distant follower!

Third, the printing capabilities clearly demonstrate why it is so critical for Google Health to build out the profile fields and personal information that one can enter into a Google Health Account.  What information seems like a no-brainer for a wallet-size card?  How about insurer and policy number as well as ICE info for starters.  How about my name on the card?  No, the only thing that card will produce is: Blood Type, Meds., Allergies and Condition(s).  Granted, these are important but we are going to want more than that in a health card.  But you know what, those important fields will never be filled until Google Health provides those fields in the account set-up.  So Google, why the delay?

As a side note to the PDF capabilities, asked Google if one could export the PDF record in the PDF Healthcare format.  Granted, Adobe and others have done an extremely poor job of promoting this standard, but one of the nice features that fits the Google Health strategy is that PDF Healthcare exports as a PDF shell with fields in native CCR XML schema – Google Health uses the CCR standard.  A very nice data portability feature.  Unfortunately, those on the call knew nothing of PDF Healthcare.

But getting back to the start of this post: the big, BIG disappointment is to see progress at Google Health move so slowly.  Clearly the Google Health team is severely resource constrained – how else can one explain the paltry new features and partners added since its launch in May 2008?

When comparing Google Health’s progress so far to that of their friend’s up north it is very clear who is truly serious about this nascent market and leading the way.  And therein is the disappointment. We truly want to see Google Health succeed and be a leading innovator as well.  Consumers in any market need choice and this market is no different.  Google Health has every potential to be a viable choice and competitor in this market.  The market needs you Google as competition is what in the end truly drives innovation.

Please Google, not for our sake but for the sake of the market, ramp-up your spend on Google Health and start making some truly serious, innovative moves. To do otherwise will lead to your efforts sinking further into irrelevancy.

8 responses to “Another Tiny Step Forward by Google Health”

  1. […] between itself and the other two consumer “Health Clouds” Dossia and Google Health.” Article John Moore, Chilmark Research, 5 March […]

  2. David C. Kibbe, MD MBA says:

    Dear John: I’ve worked with the Google Health team as a volunteer for over a year now, and, although I understand your disappointment that they aren’t moving faster, I’m still impressed with what they’ve done and am confident that they’ll continue to make small improvements that will eventually result in a substantial application for storage, transfer, and computation using one’s personal health data.

    The way Google as a company works is exactly what you’re seeing. Small improvements, some announced, some merely appearing in the app. This is the way Google Docs works, the way Google Earth was developed, and so on.

    If hospitals, health plans, doctors offices, labs, and other sources of personal data were more forthcoming in allowing us, the patients/consumers, to access our information in computable format — well, then I believe we’d see Google Health’s team moving more quickly with more resources devoted to the small group that’s working on Google Health’s applications now. Their partners in the H20 ecosystem would also be moving more quickly. I think the governing factor here in terms of development of personal health apps i general is not Google or Microsoft and their resources. It’s the public’s lack of eagerness to adopt PHRs and use them for wellness and health engagement. This takes time.

    With kind regards, DCK

    • John says:

      Thanks for providing your insight David having worked directly with the Google team. Unfortunately, I can not share your feelings of being “impressed with what they have done” as I see this latest announcement as one of pretty simplistic and common functionality found in a multitude of solutions already in the market. I become even more disillusioned when looking closely at the share feature, I see nothing more than a simple porting over of the tools already used for Google Docs. Sure, I’m all for not reinventing the wheel, but honestly, I really had hoped for more and believe the market is expecting more as well.

  3. CloudAve says:

    The Sorry State of Health 2.0 – Google Health & Microsoft HealthVault…

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  5. […] 28, 2010 by John Since its initial launch too much fanfare, Google Health has struggled to be relevant.  Since its formal launch in May 2008, Google Health has not dedicated the resources to build out […]

  6. […] its initial launch too much fanfare, Google Health has struggled to be relevant.  Since its formal launch in May 2008, Google Health has not dedicated the resources to build out […]

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