Google’s Schmidt Outlines Health Platform

by | Feb 28, 2008

Though Google announced the formal unveiling of their PHR last week, via the deal with Cleveland Clinic, today was the true coming out event when Google CEO Eric Schmidt formally introduced Google Health to the throngs at HIMSS during his keynote.

Google Health

Based on the demo I received at HIMSS, conversations I have had and comments Schmidt made during his presentation here’s what we are looking at.

What it is…

  • A basic PHR that relies heavily on Google’s core competency, search, to provide unique features rarely found in other PHRs.
  • Search features include finding a doctor that begins with a pull-down pick list of specialists to choose from, and of course the obvious ability to search on conditions, diseases, medications, etc.
  • Delivers that wonderful, clean user interface that Google is known for. Just can’t understand why others in this market (are you listening WebMD and RevolutionHealth) feel compelled to bombard us with such messy, confusing, mind-numbing user experiences. Get a clue.
  • Auto-complete feature when entering your medications. This also includes an intelligent agent running in the background that will automatically notify you if there are any possible adverse drug interactions.
  • Service is offered free to the consumer and will not be ad supported. Google is looking to simply drive traffic and does not want to risk the wrath of privacy advocates if it went down that slippery slope of targeted ads based on your health profile.
  • Cleveland Clinic trial is with approximately 1370 consumers.
  • Expect broader, public roll-out in 6-12 weeks, unless of course they run into some major problems at Cleveland.

What it is not…

  • It is not a utility service like Microsoft’s HealthVault or the employer-led Dossia initiative. This is a full-fledge PHR, or at least the beginnings of one.
  • It is not a best-in-class full-featured PHR. In its current form, Google Health is pretty simplistic. Sure, there are some nice search features and they do have a very talented team so I’m sure will see more, but in its current state, it provides far less functionality than other solutions currently in the market.
  • It is not a secure communication platform as it does not provide any means of secure communication between a consumer and their physician. An important feature that consumers want and increasingly physicians as both Aetna and Cigna have agreed to reimburse physicians for e-Consults.
  • It is not ready for the overseas markets. Schmidt stated that they are focused on the US market today as a number of key overseas markets health programs are government run. This creates regulatory hurdles that will take time to overcome.

Final Analysis

Good first steps by Google Health, but they are just that, first steps. The solution is thin, both in breadth and depth, though I am confident that will see a pretty rapid succession of features being rolled-out over the course of the year.

There are some significant challenges ahead, chief among them developing the mechanisms (APIs) to allow the ready exchange of clinical, claims, lab results, etc., between a consumer’s PHR on Google Health and their care providers. Today, the Google solution is far too dependent on the consumer to fill-out the PHR, which even with the search and auto-fill features is still too cumbersome for the vast majority of consumers.

Google is fully aware of this and the trial with Cleveland Clinic is to test the ability to securely transfer a consumer’s record and automatically populate a Google Health account. Problem is, Cleveland Clinic is but one hospital system, running one type of EMR, Epic. What about all those other hospitals running competing EMR solutions from Cerner, GE, Eclipsys and the list goes on? Does Google plan to develop APIs for each of them? And who will pay for all this development work? When I asked one of the Google representatives at HIMSS about this, he clearly understood the problem, shrugged his shoulders and said something to the effect of: We plan to develop an open API for others to adopt and use to connect into Google Health. Hmmm, not much of an answer there.

Google is not alone here as most PHR vendors are struggling with this issue as well. Microsoft is one of them. When I met with Microsoft they actually told me that they would love for Google to start using the tools which they recently released to the development community so together they would have greater clout. For obvious reasons, Google is not likely take Microsoft up on their offer.

When behemoths like Google and Microsoft enter a market, it brings a lot of visibility and interest, which in-turn brings visibility to numerous smaller players as well. It also raises expectations. Subsequently, the stronger, niche PHR companies that provide something unique will see a nice bump-up in interest and sales. Unfortunately, the vast majority of PHR companies (including some of the biggest ones) do not have such differentiation and will become increasingly irrelevant.

And if you want the official spin from Google, here is the post from Marissa Mayer of Google which went up on their site this morning.



  1. ICMCC Articles » Blog Archive » Google’s Schmidt Outlines Health Platform - [...] have had and comments Schmidt made during his presentation here’s what we are looking at.” Article John Moore, Chilmark…
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  3. Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me… « Chilmark Research - [...] but they tend to be islands unto themselves.   Personal Health Systems (PHS), such as Dossia, Google Health, HealthVault…
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