Back in 2008, Google announced with great fanfare that it was going to be offering free on-line personal health records. Google Health, as it was called, had signed up over two dozen partners including hospitals (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, The Cleveland Clinic), pharmacies (Longs Drugs, Medco Health Solutions, RxAmerica, Walgreens), diagnostic laboratories (Quest Diagnostics) and medical information providers (SafeMed, Heathgrades) in support of the effort.
Well, it seems no one really cared.
So last Friday, Google announced that it was pulling the plug on the effort as of the 1st of January 2012.
"After this date, you will no longer be able to view, enter or edit data stored in Google Health. You will be able to download the data you stored in Google Health, in a number of useful formats, through January 1, 2013."
In a blog post on the 24th of June, Google wrote that:
"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."
Users of Google Health can find more information at its FAQ page.
A story at the New York Times said that a major reason for Google Health's demise was that its personal health record was hard to use and was not seen as having great personal value, or in the words of a former manager of Google Health, the idea "did not have a compelling consumer proposition."
Any Risk Factor reader use Google Health, and was it hard to use?
A blog post at the Washington Post that is worth a read says Google Health's demise was ultimately because Google couldn't figure a way to make money out of offering the service, a question that many people raised when the offering first appeared.
Microsoft continues to support its HealthVault personal health record project, which it launched in 2007. Earlier this month, Microsoft allowed applications to be developed on mobile phones running Windows 7 to allow a person to more than just a view their HealthVault record using their mobile phone. For instance, a story at eWeek says that one application already developed by Akvelon Health Guard allows users to personally add new measurements and health information to their HealthVault record such as their blood pressure, glucose and weight.
Whether Microsoft will have staying power - or whether consumers care about its personal health records any more than they did Google's - remains to be seen. Last November, Microsoft said that it accepted the fact that it would not be making any money out of offering HealthVault, but viewed the effort as being useful as a way to create a positive image of Microsoft with its customers.
Whether that is enough of a reason for Microsoft to continue - Google apparently doesn't seem to think so - remains to be seen.