By Matthew Dublin
After only a three-year run, Google has decided to close shop on Google Health, its central repository for patient health information, including prescriptions, medical history, medical records, and more. Google's Web-based venture into personalized medicine is being discontinued due to a lack of adoption and partnerships.
According to the Google blog, "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."
In order to be successful, Google Health services also needed lots of partnerships with insurance companies and medical institutions to make data available to consumers. Although some deals were struck — including a partnership with CVS to integrated prescription drug data into the platform — as of last year, the service still needed hundreds of insurers to sign up and just couldn't gain enough traction.
Google Health will continue to be operational until January 1, 2012, and users will be allowed to export all of their data for an additional year after that. Any data that does remain on Google's servers will be permanently deleted, although what deletion methods will actually be used is not described.
In the ensuing weeks, Google will allow users to transfer their data to other services that support the Direct Project protocol, an open-source standard for health data exchange.
Google's failure to get the service up-and-running will leave a vacuum for Microsoft's HealthVault service to gain in prominence. Also launched in 2009, HealthVault has recently allowed users to upload and download X-rays, ultrasounds, and MRIs, as well as added support for mobile devices, including Windows Phone 7, Apple's iOS, and Google's Android.
Back in 2008, Microsoft lent its health service platform to help support a Scripps Translational Science Institute study that scanned 10,000 individuals affiliated with Scripps Health for more than 20 different health conditions. That HealthVault has been plugged into genomics from the start may mean that this platform could stand the test of time moving forward as personal genomics grows.