Sunday, June 26, 2011

It Seems Google Can’t Make Personal Health Records Work. The Implications are Obvious!

The following appeared a day or so ago in the New York Times.

June 24, 2011

Google to End Health Records Service After It Fails to Attract Users

By STEVE LOHR

Google is giving up on its vision of helping people live healthier lives with online personal health records.

When Google Health was introduced in 2008, Marissa Mayer, a Google executive, said it would be a “large ongoing initiative” that the company hoped would attract millions of regular users.

But Google Health never really caught on. In a posting on the company’s blog on Friday, Aaron Brown, senior product manager for Google Health, wrote that the goal was to “translate our successful consumer-centered approach from other domains to health care and have a real impact on the day-to-day health experiences of millions of our users.”

Yet, after three years, Mr. Brown said, “Google Health is not having the broad impact we had hoped it would.”

In the drive to apply information technology to health care, personalized health records are the element that relies most heavily on individual motivation and efforts. They are controlled by the consumer, and require individuals to put in, update and edit their health data. By contrast, the federal government has begun a five-year campaign to accelerate the adoption of electronic patient records by hospitals and doctors, with the incentive payments to physicians topping $40,000.

Personal health records, analysts say, are a new concept to most people, and early users have found them difficult to use. “Personal health records have been a technology in search of a market,” said Lynne A. Dunbrack, an analyst at IDC Health Insights, a research firm.

In a survey earlier this year, IDC Health Insights found that 7 percent of consumers had tried online personal health records, and fewer than half of those continued to use them.

More here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/technology/25health.html?_r=1

A report has also appeared here ins Australia.

Google kills off Health, PowerMeter services

Google is shuttering two services that didn't catch on the way they'd hoped.

Google's always taken the spaghetti-on-the-wall approach to its numerous tech initiatives: Boil up something clever and toss it on the wall. If it sticks--think Android--hey, fantastic. If it falls to the floor--Google Wave and other flops come to mind--well, better luck next time. Unfortunately, the search giant has two more nonstarters to add to its long list of flubs: Google Health and Google PowerMeter.

In a Friday blog post, Google announce it's shuttering the two services, neither of which caught on in "the way we would have hoped." Google Health launched in 2008 and was designed to give users an easier way to access their personal health records. And PowerMeter, home energy-conservation software that worked with a new breed of "smart meters," debuted in 2009.

Medical Records Online--NOT

From the start, Google Health raised privacy concerns, as critics questioned the wisdom of entrusting one's medical records to Google. Users could manually add personal medical data to their Google Health profiles, or transfer digital records to the service. The long-term goal was for health care providers to allow patients to automatically import their medical files to Google Health.

The service never caught on with the general public, although Google says select groups of techies and fitness buffs have adopted it.

"Now, with a few years of experience, we've observed that Google Health is not having the broad impact that we hoped it would... But we haven't found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people," writes Google.

Google Health will close on January 1, 2012. Users will be able to download their Google Health data through January 1, 2013.

More here:

http://www.computerworld.com.au/article/391475/google_kills_off_health_powermeter_services/

The obvious question this prompts is if Google can’t make a voluntary PHR system work just what does NEHTA / DoHA think it can offer that will attract more attention, adoption and use.

The more important point is to note that adoption of any patient managed and accessed electronic record system is driven by a few key factors, the most important of which is the perceived utility and value offered by such a record system to the individual consumer.

Other factors obviously include the perceived security and privacy controls and the ease of use of a particular system.

NEHTA and DoHA need to reflect deeply on what has happened here and possibly re-consider their overall e-Health approach and the concept of the PCEHR in particular. I for one think the present policy approach is seriously unbalanced in terms of it expenditure and politically driven objectives.

David.

8 comments:

dr1337 said...

Well said David. What's going to be even more challenging for NEHTA and DOHA is the fact that the PCEHR is going to be an Opt-In system. From what I've seen so far and the early prototypes shown, there's no comparison between Google Health and what's on offer from NEHTA.

It will be a very very tough sell to convince people to start engaging with the PCEHR.

Anonymous said...

Some interesting comments:

http://chilmarkresearch.com/2011/06/24/rip-google-health/

From a consumer viewpoint, opt-in needs to answer the question "What's in it for me?", rather than some academic take on information management.

Anonymous said...

The advantage that the PCEHR should have over Google will depend on its take up among GPs. If they can have confidence in the system, they will be more likely to recommend it to their patients. Then, as long as their practice is appropriatly conmpensated for the time taken to upload data to the records, the system will slowly grow in popularity.
Google failed where the PCEHR should not because it did not cultivate a foundation of GP support.

Dr David More MB, PhD, FACHI said...

"Then, as long as their practice is appropriatly conmpensated for the time taken to upload data to the records, the system will slowly grow in popularity."


But there are no plans for compensation that anyone knows about and the Department is apparently opposed to the idea!

David.

Anonymous said...

So where are the submissions on the PCEHR? Maybe they will contain some gems of wisdom that might illuminate the issues and perhaps even show us the way forward.

As you said in a recent blog "why does it take so long to let the public know what the public are saying?"

paul knight said...

I think the lessons from the Google Health closure is that it will take a change to the remuneration model of doctors and some incentive for broad popular adoption for the PCEHR to work, particularly so given the fragile political and policy environment in Canberra at the moment. I don't think there is much use pining for a mandatory system however, that would be practically impossible to get government support for. I have elucidated on my views in an article entitled THE FAILURE OF GOOGLE HEALTH – LESSONS FOR AUSTRALIA’S PCEHR?

Anonymous said...

This link is to Cerner's blog post titled:
The Retirement of Google Health: What it Means for the Personal Health Record
titledhttp://www.cerner.com/blog/google_health_what_it_means_for_the_PHR/?comments=yes&langType=1033

Anonymous said...

The PC part just stands for Politically Correct - patients aren't and were never going to be controlling anything...not just because the punters/fatties couldn't care less about their health when push comes to shove (much less their health records), but because ultimately, patients controlling access to their records in the way the NEHTA powerpoint slides depict it would never fly in a clinical setting and the whole shebang would ultimately go the way of Google Health or mirror the woeful NHS system.

The reality is that doctors (predominantly GPs) are the ones who will be controlling the system, and sooner than many are giving NEHTA and the vendors involved credit for. This is a good thing of course.

The patient opt-in part isn't going to be a road block for adoption either btw, as others will be doing the opting in or out on the patient's behalf. Take a look at the steady rise of ETP (electronic transfer of prescriptions)...yes, doctors have the ability to obtain consent from the patients on a per patient basis, but do you seriously think this is happening in any meaningful way?

The way the PCEHR functions as far as the GP is concerned will be no different, and neither will the true ability for patients to opt-in or opt-out of the system.