Old time readers of CloudAve know how myself and Zoli are very interested in the online health records and we both expected Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault to solve these pain points (for our posts on this topic, click here). After the initial buzz, Google Health faded off from the radar of many people. Now we know what is happening. Yes, Google has decided to shut down Google Health because of lack of any significant adoption.
Google today wrote a post announcing the eventual shutdown of two of the interesting projects they had, Google Health and Google PowerMeter.
In the coming months, we’re going to retire two products that didn’t catch on the way we would have hoped, but did serve as influential models: Google Health (retiring January 1, 2012; data available for download through January 1, 2013) and Google PowerMeter (retiring September 16, 2011). Both were based on the idea that with more and better information, people can make smarter choices, whether in regard to managing personal health and wellness, or saving money and conserving energy at home. While they didn’t scale as we had hoped, we believe they did highlight the importance of access to information in areas where it’s traditionally been difficult.
It is sad to see Google Health go. Even though I have not been using it as I initially expected, it was a promising project with a potential to help patients and cut healthcare costs. Looks like they are two early to the game. While the very idea of putting patient records online itself hasn’t taken off big, the idea of having online records with a provider who is neither the insurance company nor the hospital is premature, especially in a sector where the hold of powerful interests are very tight.
This news also highlights another important aspect of user rights which we have been advocating here and elsewhere. It is about data portability. Whether the service providers like or not, it is the users who own the data including any metadata that is generated. Users may let the providers use their metadata to monetize but they are the ultimate owners. Google is one of the companies which is at the forefront of data portability campaign. They are once again doing it right by making it easy to export user data in open formats.
We’ll continue to operate the Google Health site as usual through January 1, 2012, and we’ll provide an ongoing way for people to download their health data for an additional year beyond that, through January 1, 2013. Any data that remains in Google Health after that point will be permanently deleted.
If you’re a Google Health user, we’ve made it easy for you to retrieve your data from Google Health any time before January 1, 2013. Just go to the site to download your information in any of several formats: you can print and save it, or transfer it to other services that support industry-standard data formats. Available formats include:
- Printable PDF including all the records in your Google Health profile
- Industry-standard Continuity of Care Record (CCR) XML that can be imported into other personal health tools such as Microsoft® HealthVault™
- Comma-separated value (CSV) files that can be imported into spreadsheets and database programs for ongoing tracking and graphing
- HTML and XML versions of the original “data notices” sent to your Google Health profile by linked data providers
- A unified ZIP archive that includes all files you’ve uploaded to your profile, plus all of the formats above
Over the coming weeks we’ll also be adding the ability to directly transfer your health data to other services that support the Direct Project protocol, an emerging open standard for efficient health data exchange. And while we’ll discontinue the Google Health service at the beginning of 2012, we’ll keep these download options available for one more year, through the start of 2013. This approach to download and transfer capability is part of Google’s strong commitment to data liberation principles: providing free and easy ways for users to maintain control of their data and move it out of Google’s services at any time.
I still believe that we will soon be taking all our healthcare records online and have full control over the privacy of the data. I am waiting for one of the smaller players get big in the future. Let us see how the space shapes up in the coming years.