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PREMATURE: GOOGLE DISCONTINUES GOOGLE HEALTH

On Friday I received my invite to Google Music Beta. At the exact same time I saw the update on Google’s blog about discontinuing Google Health (GH).  Coincidence?

GH was discontinued according to Google because it wasn’t having a ‘broad impact.’ Really? I think it did by getting the industry and people to talk more about patient health records, security/privacy of records, access to information and more. I previously blogged about GH including its issues.

Yes GH had issues: security/privacy, it wasn’t social and did not have a social connection (Google seems to struggle with the social part of every project), it didn’t provide fancy features, Google didn’t involve clinicians, there was no marketing, and it appeared abandoned months ago.

Despite the issues with GH I still think it was premature to discontinue the program. Right now many hospitals and healthcare facilities across the US are implementing electronic medical records as part of ARRA HITECH. It is the start of a long process. A process that ends with all systems being able to communicate and share information. GH had started the process of communicating with Beth Israeland other early adopters. GH was ahead of its time with helping organizations communicate. Did it need improvements? You betcha.

It seems if Google was hoping for a ‘broader impact’ so quickly then they do need to get out of healthcare, which by design moves slow. I constantly hear colleagues complain about the amount of time it takes clinical findings to get to the point of care. Yes it is a slow process and could be improved but if you move too fast there is not enough time to test. For instance efforts to reproduce the Leaven tight glycemic control study resulted in increased mortality rates in the ICU instead of decreasing mortality.

So there is reason to move a little slower in the healthcare industry. A pace it seems Google is unaccustomed to and requires quick large impact.

If Google has decided not to enter the health field then it would be great if they turned the GH code into open source so others could use it as a building block. It may not be perfect but GH was a start on the long HITECH road.

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