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What Should We Make of Google Health’s Failure?

So, Google Health’s slow collapse — akin to a tire with a slow but obvious leak — has finally come to an end. This week, Google officially ended the project, one of the pioneering efforts in the Personal Health Records space. While GH will stumble along through January 1, 2012, the jig is finally up.

Why did a high-visibility project backed by one of the world’s premier Internet companies fail so miserably? Well, according to former Google employee Adam Bosworth, who first launched GH, the effort failed because “it’s not social,” TechCrunch reports.  Another pundit, more convincingly, argued that unless PHRs are tied to reimbursement somehow, they’ll be “irrelevant” for most providers.

So, why should we care about the failure of a project that, I’d argue, was pretty much pie in the sky from day one? And more importantly, is the failure of GH relevant to people who care about the future of EMRs?

Well, for one thing, Google Health does offer some pretty interesting insights into what doesn’t work in the world of patient-centered clinical data. As I see it, they include the following:

*  Clinical data projects that aren’t interoperable are eventually going to wither away.

I think it’s telling that Google is, at the last possible moment, rolling out the ability for patients to transfer health data to other services supporting the Direct Project protocol.  Also notable is that Google is offering patients the option of downloading data that meets the Continuity of Care Record format. (That’s ASTM E2369 – 05e1 to any standards geeks out there.)

Does that imply that EMRs that don’t share data are going to be outmoded or a waste of time?  Certainly not, as EMRs can potentially solve many in-house problems that providers face, and serve a far more expansive purpose. That being said, the failure of siloed PHRs should be a warning.

* Without a live, fluid source of data, PHRs don’t matter.

In this cynic’s mind, the idea that patients would suddenly begin to post data to PHRs on their own was, to put it simply, pretty dumb.  Why would they?  Consumers seldom think about their health data unless they’re at a doctor’s office, if at all, and they don’t exactly know what do do with the data once they’ve compiled it.

Since day one of the PHR craze, I’ve been wondering who thought they’d change patient behavior en masse by dangling a technology carrot. What were they thinking? I’m not just slamming Google, I’m targeting pretty much any PHR that isn’t linked to an EMR or other clinical data source directly. (I’m talking about you, HealthVault, and probably Dossia too.)

* PHRs must be run by a trusted intermediary, and marketed vigorously to patients, before patients will take heed.

I think it’s no coincidence that while Google’s PHR, and possibly Microsoft’s, haven’t won over many consumers, patients are beginning to pay a bit more attention to PHRs provided by providers and health insurers.  (OK, I don’t have hard data on this, just a strong gut feeling — can any of you provide stats that support or contradict this assumption?)

A case in point: While they’ve arguably spent way, way too much to get there, Kaiser Permanente has built what may be the largest PHR user-base in the world — 3 million users as of spring 2010 — linked to KP’s big Epic installation.  True, Kaiser had to spend millions in advertising and other forms of outreach to get patients on board, but what’s telling is that patients seem to have stayed once they arrived.

So, I’m just wondering when the managers behind HealthVault will throw in the towel. Hey, MS, just turn out the light when you leave, OK?

June 26, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Google Health Resets…errr…Put on Ice?

The always insightful John Moore (so many great John’s in Healthcare IT), posted a great blog post back in September of 2010 about Google Health hitting the reset button. The post was interesting as it tried to show Google Health going in a new direction. The irony was that almost a year ago John had posted about Google Health’s irrelevancy in the PHR market.

Despite the up downs of Google Health, today John put Google Health in Stasis. He sights a great list of yellow and dark orange flags that are a bad sign for those who love Google Health. Here’s one section from his post:

Beginning in late March 2011, we started hearing the rumors of the impending demise of Google Health once again (is this becoming some sort of annual thing with Google Health?). We waited a few weeks to see if the rumors would die down, they did not. We put a call into Google Health to set up a briefing, get an update. Response back was slow (one yellow flag). When they did get back to us, they said it will be at least a couple of weeks (two yellow flags). Next, our Google contact told us by email that they were going to hand Chilmark’s inquiry off to Google’s PR department (screaming dark orange flag). And now today, we received an email from one of Google Health’s most visible spokespersons, Missy Krasner that she is leaving Google.

He then projected that we shouldn’t “expect anything new out of Google Health for at least the next 5 years.” That’s quite the projection. However, I’d take it one step further. I don’t expect to see anything really mainstream out of PHR software for another 5 years either.

I do think that PHR software is going to have a strong showing in chronic patients. I could also see an interesting niche in secondary caretaker healthcare management using a PHR (I’ve got an interesting announcement about baby boomer healthcare coming soon). I definitely want an online means for tracking my parents healthcare. Not to mention, then all of my brothers and sisters could participate as well. A few other niches are likely to be successful as well. Not to mention, other consumer PHR-like applications for healthcare that will become popular like the Nike+.

May 12, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.

Want People To Use PHRs? Try Making Them A Game

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but over the last week I’ve become addicted to a hideously cute little iPhone app called Shopkick.  The app locates where you are geographically, spits out a list of retailers for you, and when you click on the retailer’s name, typically rewards you with “kickbucks.”

The more kickbucks you get, the higher “level” you’re at, whatever that means — and when you collect, say, thousands of points you can get a $25 gift card. (Yippee!)  In truth, the rewards Shopkick offers probably average out to about 3 cents an hour. Who cares?  I keep playing with the stupid app until I’m out of offers to click.

Now can anyone tell me why the same type of scheme wouldn’t motivate at least some consumers to add data to their PHR on a regular basis?  Small cash rewards are already proving effective at improving medication compliance, after all, and for most people, updating their PHR would be no harder than taking a pill.

In the past, I’ve scoffed mightily at online schemes which reward people for participating in communities, filling out forms or otherwise doing what they’re told.  After all, why should anyone care if a site names them an “explorer” or a “champion” or a “grand poobah”?  But there I am, getting psyched when Shopkick promotes me from level 3 to level 4.  Hey, I can’t help it — every time you level up you get such a cute little chime and a big green bubble to pop…  (Yes, I am otherwise a mature, responsible adult.)

But I’m being taught, by playing with this app, that rewarding people — even with very small incentives — can do an amazing job of getting them to repeat behavior.  Offer patients relevant reinforcement and patients are likely to take the PHR maintenance job more seriously.   What if, for example, a health plan teamed up with a pharmacy retailer to offer discounts on products if patients maintained their data? It could be huge.

But don’t make the rewards too exciting. Hey, you might have to keep releasing new, updated versions of your gaming system to satisfy fans.

April 25, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Insane EMR Ideas

In the vast amount of information that comes through my email, Twitter account, RSS feeds, etc one of them recently caught my eye. It was a webinar called, “Insane Ideas in Healthcare IT” by Christine D. Chang; Ovum, Analyst of Healthcare Technology (you can find the archived webinar here if you click around a bit). Here’s the description for the presentation:

All great ideas sound “insane” at first. This presentation will describe three insane ideas that Ovum believes will transform healthcare in the future including:
• Telehealth is for everyone, not just the elderly.
• Patient self-diagnosis is good and should be promoted.
• Personal health records are not just a passing trend, they are the solution.

I really love the concept of considering “insane ideas.” So, my question is what EMR ideas do you have that most people would consider insane?

On EMR and HIPAA, I wrote about an EMR platform which I think some might classify as an insane idea. Sometimes I wonder if becoming a full time entrepeneur doing mostly EMR blogging is an insane idea;-) I think that many might consider the Free EMR software an insane idea.

I had one EMR vendor recently ask me to write about them. He hoped that people’s response to my post would be that they all think it’s crazy to try and build an EMR company that way. I guess he prescribes to the best ideas sounding “insane” at first.

Let’s hear what ideas you think might be insane.

April 19, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.