Posted on February 29, 2008 by Lygeia Ricciardi
As you may have heard, Google formally unveiled Google Health yesterday at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Orlando, following an announcement last week that it was participating in a pilot with the Cleveland Clinic. Google CEO Eric Schmidt described Google Health as a secure web based service that allows consumers to compile and store their health information remotely and make decisions about who has access to it. It is not yet available to the public.
Google Health has generated a lot of discussions about privacy, partly because some people are concerned that Google already knows too much about users from their general search activities, and partly because Google, like most non-traditional entrants into the consumer health market, is not covered by the HIPAA privacy regulation.
Google will offer its product free to consumers and plans to make money indirectly, through advertising revenues generated by consumers’ follow up searches on google.com. For a description of what GoogleHealth is and isn’t, see Chilmark Research’s analysis and the comparison with Microsoft's HealthVault by Vince Kuraitis.
On the Official Google Blog, Marissa Mayer, VP, Search & User Products, lays out the characteristics that the company thinks set Google Health apart: emphasis on privacy and security, use of a platform, portability, and a user focus. While Google’s service may not be unique in any of these dimensions, they’re betting that it may provide the greatest relative value in the area of usability. As Mayer says, “We aren't doctors or healthcare experts, but one thing Google can create is a clean, easy-to-use user experience that makes managing your health information straightforward and easy.” This emphasis on the “front end” as opposed to the “back end” appears to be one of the salient differences between Google Health and Microsoft’s HealthVault platform, launched last fall. That said, Google will encourage third-party developers to build direct-to-consumer applications, such as medication tables or immunizations reminders, that will be delivered over its open platform. Coincidence? Probably not. Though the grand entrance of powerful outsiders like Google and Microsoft may not totally transform health IT, it does bring capitol, innovation, and attention to the field. Now all we need is consumers!
On the topic of Microsoft, the company announced earlier this week (also at HIMSS) its $3 million HealthVault Be Well Fund, designed to spur development of PHRs and similar applications that improve health (and are, of course, compatible with HealthVault).