Exploring Human Potential

Now That Google Health Is Gone, Will “Healthy Tech” Emerge?

Posted on | September 18, 2013 | No Comments

Mike Magee

Google Health, after some 16 quarters, threw up it’s hands and surrendered.(1) In so doing, it followed Steve Case’s move with Revolution Health. And then there’s Microsoft’s Health Vault, which is primarily a secure, if passive repository for yesterday’s information.(2)

In its announcement, Google said: “In the coming months, we’re going to retire … Google Health (retiring January 1, 2012; data available for download through January 1, 2013). (The application was) 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 (it) didn’t scale as we had hoped, we believe (it) did highlight the importance of access to information in areas where it’s traditionally been difficult.”(1)

Experts wasted little time in laying out in detail their views why Google Health failed – not fun, too cumbersome, no doctors, no insurance companies, no reimbursement, no marketing, etc.(3)

But the problem was more fundamental. The problem for Google Health, and arguably for Health Vault as well, has been a lack of basic understanding of modern health, where it is heading, and the role technology must play in its’ transformation.

Google felt that “information” = “solution”. Mirroring the existing health care system, it reacted rather than proacted, accepting segregation without promoting strategic health planning in a meaningful and comprehensive way.

What are the fundamentals today that must be fully represented if tomorrow’s patient health application is to succeed? Here are five.(4)

1. The people trust doctors and nurses more than hospitals, and far more than employers, insurers or government. Furthermore, they see information coming from clinicians as most reliable, and are more likely to act on information if it comes with an endorsement from their health care team.

2. Health and wellness is now a multi-generational challenge complicated by mobility and scarce resources. Families must frequently manage 3 and 4 generation complexity and the varied and competing health needs of multiple family members.

3. The patient-health professional relationship remains marked by compassion, understanding and partnership. It’s structure however has evolved, from individual to team approaches, from paternalism to partnership, from “doctor says” to mutual decision making, and from professional responsibility for performance to shared responsibility.

4. Progress in efficient and effective health and wellness systems in the future will require strategic, forward facing and individualized health planning imbedded in hardware and software shared by patients and their health professional teams.

5. Performance of both the people and the people caring for the people must be measured against dynamic plans which are continuously refined, updated and improved.

Future health applications that are successful will have advantaged these realities from the inside out. That is to say, the most successful products will emerge, be tested, and be validated on the local level by organizations who are committed to and delivering care to a patient population within defined geographic and organizational boundaries.(4)

These applications will offer a cross-connect between patients and their care teams rather than a cross-check on each other. They will plan, not react. They will share hardware and software with the care team initially delivering both to all new patients. They will educate each other in earnest and with respect for each other’s opinions and points of view. They will succeed in unlocking human potential together. And they will do so while efficiently managing resources, in part with the financial support and incentives devised by insurers and government who will be mutual beneficiaries of their combined success.

For Health Commentary, I’m Mike Magee.


1. Google Health announcement.

2. Microsoft Health Vault.

3. Dolan B. 10 Reasons Why Googlr Health Failed. June 27, 2011.

4. Magee M. Powering Healthcare Visions: Taking Advantage of Complexity, Connectivity, and Consumerism. Intel Technology Journal. Volume 13, Issue 3. December, 2009.


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