10 Reasons why Google Health failed

By Brian Dolan
09:24 am

Google Health Shuts DownSince Google's announcement on Friday, pundits have discussed the many possible reasons that Google Health failed. The best analyses of the demise of Google Health include this timeline by John Moore of Chilmark Research, this roundup from ReadWriteWeb, and some of the comments in these two TechCrunch articles.

This morning we parsed through the many comments, commentaries and pundit quotes found in these and other posts around the web to create this list of ten reasons why Google Health failed. This is not intended to serve as a definitive list, but it includes commentaries from a handful of current and former Microsoft healthcare executives, as well as other notable industry onlookers.

Why did Google Health Fail?

Google Health was not fun or social: Adam Bosworth, the original leader of Google Health and now founder at Keas, told TechCrunch TV a few weeks ago: "My sense is that neither [Google Health nor Microsoft HealthVault] are dramatically successful. In Google's case, it's partly because they haven't really pushed to see what people would want. They basically offered a place to store data. Our data shows people don't really want a place to store data, per se. They want to do something fun and engaging. If it's not fun, if it's not social, why would they do it? Yes, they want to be healthy, but they need more than that. They need the encouragement and even the pressure of friends. They need the constant pressure, constant reminders." While not all healthcare services need to be fun, Bosworth's insight is especially helpful since he helped found Google Health. Video

Google Health was not trustworthy: Same old "Google is actually evil" argument and should not be trusted with personal data, especially health data. Proponents of this reason believe consumers are not willing to trust corporations like Google or Microsoft with their personal health data. This group would likely disagree with Bosworth that Google Health wasn't fun or social enough.

Google Health was too cumbersome to use: While the user interface for Google Health has received praise, the process for bringing data into Google Health wasn't simple. Dr. Joseph Sucher explained the cumbersome nature of the process by highlighting three points in a comment on Dr. John Halamka's Life as a Healthcare CIO blog: "One, the patient doesn't always get reliable information transferred to them. Two, many people simply don't have the time or take the time needed to update the details of their healthcare. Three, the information complexity can become too unwieldy and complicated for most people to maintain on their own without professional input."

Google Health did not involve doctors: GH was too bottom-up, according to at least one former Microsoft executive: Dave Chase, founder of Microsoft's health business and now CEO at Avado, writes for TechCrunch: "As much as there's a massive consumer-empowerment movement, in order to get ongoing and broad adoption of something in healthcare, one needs to lead with the clinicians. Take a look at ZocDoc, for example. They are having success with appointment scheduling by leading with doctors/dentists who then, in turn, bring in their patients. Without provider adoption first, they would have had limited success with consumers."

It was hard for Google to partner with insurance companies: Matthew Holt, co-chair of the organization The Health 2.0 Network, told ReadWriteWeb: "Google became disappointed when they found out how hard it was to get insurance agencies to share their data voluntarily. They made some progress but not enough."

It was too hard to overcome the current reimbursement barriers: This from former Microsoft exec Dave Chase again: "As much as we’d like to think it isn’t the case, the fundamental driver of most (not all) behavior in healthcare is the reimbursement scheme... To understand the impact, I’ll exaggerate to make a point—your healthcare provider doesn’t care about you unless they can see the whites of your eyes. Why is that? Today’s flawed reimbursement scheme only compensates the healthcare provider for a face to face visit." I don't understand this argument, but I suppose any failed health venture can be blamed at least indirectly on a backwards reimbursement system.

Google Health was poorly marketed: A common refrain in the comments of most Google Health coverage these past few days. How were consumers supposed to know Google Health existed? Did Google promote GH less than other Google services?

Google Health received poor C-level support: Dr. Bill Crounse, Senior Director of Worldwide Health at Microsoft, wrote in the comments of the TechCrunch article: "Yes, but it also failed because Sergey [Brin] and Larry [Page] never really supported it. Health isn't a core competency at GOOG. Health is hard. It takes lots of time, money and partners to transform an industry." When Page took over it was noted that he planned to cut services with low adoption.

Google Health had no advertising opportunity: In the comments section of the TechCrunch article, Gabor Fari, the Director of Life Sciences Solutions at Microsoft, wrote that he believed the lack of advertising potential was what brought GH down: "I guess you can't sell advertising to patients whose records you handle after all. They finally concluded that, so they are moving on," he wrote.

Google Health was not useful to consumers: Ultimately, I think John Moore of Chilmark Research hits on the biggest reason of all: It didn't solve any pressing problems for consumers. "Can it help them better manage their health and/or the health of a loved one? Will it help them make appointments? Will it saved them money on their health insurance bill, their next doctor visit? Can it help them automatically get a prescription refill? These are the basics that the vast majority of consumers want addressed first, and Google Health was unable to deliver on any of these."

What else -- why, do you believe, did Google Health fail? Do any of these ten reasons miss the mark?


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