Official: Google Health shuts down because it couldn't scale adoption

By Brian Dolan

Google Health Shuts DownGoogle has officially announced plans to shutter Google Health, its personal health record platform, come January 1, 2012. Data stored in Google Health will continue to be available for download until January 1, 2013. Google plans to add a direct transfer option to Google Health in the coming weeks that will enable users to transfer their health data to any other system that makes use of the Direct Project protocol. After that date any remaining data in Google Health will be deleted.

"In the end, while we weren’t able to create the impact we wanted with Google Health, we hope it has raised the visibility of the role of the empowered consumer in their own care," Google Health's senior product manager Aaron Brown wrote in the company's blog. "We continue to be strong believers in the role information plays in healthcare and in improving the way people manage their health, and we’re always working to improve our search quality for the millions of users who come to Google every day to get answers to their health and wellness queries."

Brown wrote that while Google Health did not meet the company's user adoption expectations, Google believes the service "did highlight the importance of access to information in areas where it’s traditionally been difficult." ePatient Dave's story is a clear testament to the complexities embedded in that point.

"There has been adoption among certain groups of users like tech-savvy patients and their caregivers, and more recently fitness and wellness enthusiasts," Brown wrote, "but we haven’t found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people."

The shutdown of Google Health should come as no surprise to those following the connected health conversation. Personal health records and similar platforms have largely failed to gain adoption among consumers -- this is especially true for those systems that are not tethered to a patient's healthcare provider. While Google Health announced a facelift late last year which brought a new wellness and fitness focus to the service, the future would have seen Google Health moving more to the mobile platform, a Google Health rep told MobiHealthNews in a past interview.

In May, Chilmark Research analyst John Moore wrote that Google Health was being put into "stasis" mode and would be "frozen" for five years until the consumer health market picked up: "There is now no doubt in our mind that the Google Health development team has been dis-banded and Google Health has been placed in a cryogenic state until the moribund consumer adoption of such tools comes to life. It would be far to big a PR nightmare for Google to completely pull the plug on Google Health as they have done in the past with other less then stellar launches. No, they’ll put an engineer or two on Google Health to keep it up and running but don’t expect anything new out of Google Health for at least the next 5 years."

Given Moore's comments, it is surprising that Google has announced a full-stop for the Google Health service come 2013. The executive shuffle at Mountain View headquarters where Google co-founder Larry Page has taken over as CEO from Eric Schmidt was said to bring with it a re-focusing on products and services that had demonstrated adoption or strong potential for adoption. It was clear at the time that Google Health would not be on that list. Still many believed along with Moore that Google wouldn't fully shutdown the health service. The one year data transfer grace period appears to be the compromise.

Moore noted in May that Missy Krasner, a founding member of the Google Health team, announced her departure. Previously, Google Health engineering program manager Julie Wilner had departed to join fitness device startup Basis.

While it wasn't a large team, I am curious to see where other Google Health alums end up. Also, how will the lessons that follow from Google Health's demise instruct the rest of the market?