One more thing: Works for Apple, but killed Google Health

Google Health is dead.

There have been plenty of post-mortems as to why, ranging from the fact that it’s not social enough (uh … no), to the realization that only a minority of practices have electronic medical records, yet alone a patient portal that can incorporate PHRs like Google Health.

I’ll chip in with my own reason — it suffered from “one more thing” syndrome.

PHRs today aren’t seamlessly incorporated into a patient’s and doctor’s normal workflow.

Google Health required patients to take that extra step of entering a health and medical history themselves.  And most doctors could not automatically incorporate Google Health information into a format their EMRs could use.

Whatever takes extra steps isn’t likely to be adopted.

Google Health was off to a rocky start when it discovered how difficult it was to download insurance company-generated health claims into its database.  As e-Patient Dave DeBronkart noted, it’s often “garbage in, garbage out.”  And relying on patients to enter their own data doomed the service to niche status.  It’s no wonder that only 7% of patients use PHRs at all.

For doctors, there’s even less incentive.  Most have enough trouble transitioning to an EHR, let alone integrating it with Google Health.  It’s no wonder that not many were willing to take that extra step of doing so.

Dave Chase summarizes it best:

To understand the impact, I’ll exaggerate to make a point—your healthcare provider doesn’t care about you unless they can see the whites of your eyes. Why is that? Today’s flawed reimbursement scheme only compensates the healthcare provider for a face to face visit. It’s hard to fault the primary care physician who has been put on a hamster wheel of 30-40 appointments per day and can’t even give their practice away upon retirement (that was once their retirement plan) for not wanting to deal with their patients sending email or sharing information from their personal health record.

The failure to involve health care professionals is the biggest reason why Google Health failed. I hope people will begin to realize that nothing will change in health care unless physicians are on board 100%. Like it or not, doctors still wield tremendous influence over their patients, so for consumer health innovations to succeed, it needs to come through the doctor’s office.

“One more thing” works well for Steve Jobs and Apple when announcing new products. But when it comes to health technology, requiring physicians and patients to take any additional steps is a surefire recipe for failure.

Kevin Pho is an internal medicine physician and on the Board of Contributors at USA Today.  He is founder and editor of, also on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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  • Smart Doc

    I was struggling with Google Health for my personal records the day before I was put out of my misery when the product was pulled.

    I love Kevin’s quote in the article: “The failure to involve health care professionals is the biggest reason why Google Health failed.”

    I would extrapolate: The failure to involve health care professionals is the biggest reason why ObamaCare will fail.

  • Joel Sherman MD

    Google Health was doomed to failure. They put the onus on the patient to obtain their own health records and upload them on their own. That means the patient would have to request their records from their doctors and labs after each visit. Most of what they needed would be unavailable in digital format and they’d have to type it in themselves. -A mind boggling amount of work!

    These systems can’t work until we have a national system of fully transportable records. That would have to be developed by the federal government and its use made mandatory for all providers, insurers, pharmacies etc at a cost that the providers can afford. We’re still light years away from that as a goal. It can’t be done by private corporations like Google whose main objective is to further their own interests.

  • WarmSocks

    As busy as my doctors are, I couldn’t see asking them to add interacting with Google Health, too. I figured it would require another appointment, so they could get paid for the time it took to do data transfer.

    Aside from that, my reason to not use Google Health: security. I’m happy to type in my own data if I know that it’s password-protected on my own hard drive and not floating around in cyberspace where someone might hack into it.

  • Donna Ruark

    As an HealthIT student I tried to enter my information into Google Health, it was not robust enough to enter all the information I wanted to record. It had at least one bug. It had some sort of unseen record of a med I deleted and wanted to re-enter, because it kept giving me an error for a duplicate med when I was trying to put it back.

    Also, you need to realize that my dermatologist, OB-GYN, Cataract Surgeon, and Family physician all want to have different views of my health information – Google Health did not take this into account. And I am basically a healthy women.

    It was pulled because it was the quality of a college project developed by three people over a power weekend, not the high quality we need in a personal health record.

    I also agree with someone I read “that medical information from a patient is only hearsay unless backed up by documentation from a doctor or medical facility. “

  • horseshrink

    Thanks for this post.

    The learning curve for modern healthcare is still very steep. Through the clarity of retrospect fifty years hence, we will see how foetal and fluid is the current state of relevant technologies, including EHR systems.

    I cringe to see massive, politicized, nonclinical governmental bureaucracies try to track and participate in this process through premature mandates and oblivion to “in-the-trenches” clinician needs.

    Even Google stuttered.