I am an unabashed fan of Google. However, if the company suffers from anything, it's a corporate sense of hubris. The founders think that almost any problem can be solved by their engineering mentality and their "search" business model. It turns out that launching a personal health record product was not that easy a nut to crack so the company is now withdrawing from the business (see: Google Shuts Down Medical Records And Health Data Platform). Here's Mr. HIStalk's take on the demise of Google Health (see: Monday Morning Update 6/27/11):
Google predictably did what its know-it-all technology company predecessors have done over the years: dipped an arrogant and half-assed toe into the health IT waters; roused a loud rabble of shrieking fanboy bloggers and reporters...who instantly declared it to be the Second Coming that would make all decades-old boring vendors instantly obsolete or subservient to the Googleplex; and then turned tailed and slunk off at the first sign of lackluster ROI, leaving the few patients and providers who actually cared high and dry except for those same old boring vendors who have stuck it out for decades instead of chasing whatever sector looked juicy at the moment. Why did Google Health fail? Simple and obvious: consumer demand for personal health records is close to zero, which has always been the case and probably always will be. Convincing patients to take the time and effort to maintain PHRs is as tough a sell as convincing doctors to voluntarily use CPOE, and for the same reasons: those doing the work don’t get much benefit. Patients don’t want to maintain their own records and clinicians aren’t about to trust patient-maintained information for making treatment decisions ....PHRs aren’t fun....The only model Google knows involves near-universal adoption that gets advertisers salivating, not having a tiny contingent of wellness buffs and savvy chronic disease suffers using their free online service....They’re more interested in patch-me-up-doc “healthcare” than I-need-to-make-better-choices “health” that requires proactive electronic tools.
I generally agree with most of what Mr. HIStalk says here. The majority of Americans are only interested in "patch-me-up-doc healthcare" and will take few if any active steps to improve their health status. Most certainly won't lose weight, exercise, or improve their diets to "cure" metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes. If this is the case, how naive of any of us to assume that they would spend time managing a personal health record offered by Google Health (or anyone other company).
However, I am not yet ready to give up on personal health records (PHRs). First of all and as Mr. HIStalk states clearly in his note, the only PHR that will succeed is one that is largely automatically populated with data from the EMR as is the case with Epic MyChart. Secondly, we need to preferentially offer PHR access to to those patients who have a large stake in accessing and reviewing their own medical records in order to prolong their lives -- notably cancer patients (see: Who Believes It Is 'Very Important' To Have Electronic Access to Their Health Care Data?). Here is an excerpt from this article:
About eight in 10 patients living with active cancer agree that it is "very important" they be able to access their health care information electronically, according to an analysis from University of Pittsburgh researchers. Researchers found that about three out of four cancer patients on prescription medication also agree it is "very important" that they can get their medical information in an electronic format. Researchers also found that 82.1% of patients living with active cancer agree it is "very important" that their health care providers are able to share medical information electronically with one another. In addition, 60% of post-cancer treatment individuals "strongly agree" that researchers should be able to use their de-identified health care information.