Google announced Friday it will discontinue its Google Health service, a program launched three years ago to allow users to upload and store electronic health records in a central, online repository.
The service was designed to provide users with an online database where they could manage personal medical records from home, saving costs and adding efficiencies. However, it apparently didn’t generate the following Google hoped it would.
The program will end on Jan 1, 2012, but users who have already downloaded medical documents by that time will have one more year to download and transfer their files.
The company did not respond to TechNewsWorld’s inquiry regarding what happens to records after Jan 1, 2013.
Nearly US$1.2 billion of federal stimulus money has been pumped into various projects for creating electronic health records (EHRs). The goal is to cut down costs by increasing efficiency and decreasing redundant medical tests, screenings and errors.
Part of that money was allocated for centers that would help medical facilities implement electronic records into their daily practices and assist on the technicalities. The rest of the money went to state efforts to creating programs similar to Google Health.
Despite the federal assistance and enthusiasm, the storing of electronic health records has undergone a relatively slow start.
Google noted that tech-savvy patients and caregivers, as well as fitness and wellness enthusiasts, have been adopting the system. However, the company has had trouble finding ways to translate those successes into a more widespread trend.
Although the concept of online health records fits into consumer demand for more cost-efficient healthcare policies, many users just weren’t sure what to do with Google’s program.
“One reason for low reception is that patients were less willing to upload all of their information, given privacy concerns. Another potential reason for low adoption is that with such an innovative product, that patients did not really understand the offering. Without understanding the benefits and how to use Google Health, they stuck to their traditional ways of organizing records,” Michael Stanat, a research executive at SIS International Research, told TechNewsWorld.
Will It Spread?
It’s unclear whether online medical records is a concept that will be adopted by the masses. If it is, users may be more likely to upload their information to a company specializing only in online medical records, rather than a company like Google that does it as a side project.
One example of that approach would be Direct Project, an online health record storage space toward which Google is directing its customers.
Competing services may have also contributed to the Google project’s demise.
“More and more health insurance companies provide robust online portals to help patients organize medical records, without much additional effort required,” said Stanat.
Google competitor Microsoft has also launched an electronic health record base, the Microsoft HealthVault. The company has not revealed if it’s running into the same lack of users that Google faced.
It’s uncharacteristic of the search engine giant to seemingly hand over business to a rival, but Google may have felt it was more important to focus on core technology investments that have made it the powerful company it is today.
“This is part of a bigger push to wind down non-performing services and focus on projects that are gaining consumer traction. The company has over the past couple years been proactively shutting down services that don’t really perform and focusing on things like Chrome, mobile and YouTube,” Clay Moran, stock analyst at Benchmark Company, told TechNewsWorld.
Analysts at Morningstar agree that investors want to see focus on innovation that will rock the tech world, not simply spending on services that have more competent providers elsewhere.
“We are optimistic that Google is showing some discipline, investing in the opportunities that are likely to extend its competitive advantages and abandoning investments that aren’t achieving the milestones that would support further investment,” Rick Summer, analyst at Morningstar, told TechNewsWorld.