Google Health was a personal health information centralization service (sometimes known as personal health record services) by Google introduced in 2008 and cancelled in 2011. The service allowed Google users to volunteer their health records – either manually or by logging into their accounts at partnered health services providers – into the Google Health system, thereby merging potentially separate health records into one centralized Google Health profile.
Personally, if they wanted to build that, they should just go buy Dossia, and they would be there. Looking backwards, you can read the announcement to cancel Google Health here, and there’s lots of articles out there about why it failed.
While they haven’t had a dedicated health team officially, they continue to have several health related projects:
- Helpouts is a video service that is HIPAA compliant meaning it could eventually compete with Teladoc, MDLive, and American Well.
- Calico is a newer company focused on aging which has lots of people wondering as they add well known executives to the core team.
- They just came out with their smart contact lens to help diabetics test their blood sugar.
- Google has an app called My Tracks and an API to tap into some of the sensors in the phone that could be used for fitness apps.
- Google X staff recently met with the FDA leading to some speculation.
- Of course, there is also lots of discussion about how Google Glass could be used in healthcare. (I personally think about the Checklist Manifesto as a perfect opportunity.)
- And, I would also point to the intelligent home (per their acquisition of Nest) as a venture which will lead them down the path of health at some point.
You could also look at the companies that Google Ventures is investing in from the health space:
- One Medical Group
- Foundation Medicine
- Doctor on Demand
- Flatiron Health
- Rani Therapeutics
I could have easily seen them investing in something like Theranos which stands to change the biometrics space.
So…it’s not like they’re ignoring the space which isn’t unusual for many companies outside of healthcare. Healthcare is hard. Healthcare has lots of regulatory constraints. In general, many companies want to avoid having to deal with some of those issues which can constrain the rest of their businesses.
But, let’s look at the critical and hot topics in healthcare right now:
- BigData – how to use data; how to build predictive models
- Engagement – how to personalize communications and engage consumers to take action from mass customization to segmentation to even gamification
- Mobile and devices – how to use technology to track your steps, monitor your health, and collect data (see post about why your underwriter wants your mobile data)
- Social – how to use social pressures and peers to create better health
- Connectivity – how to connect devices, caregivers, pharmacies, providers, and others into a shared platform for care
- Security – how to securely manage data
- Transparency – collecting and aggregating pricing data to help consumers make intelligent decisions
- User experience – creating user journeys and user interfaces to improve the overall consumer experience (perhaps changing the model like Uber (a Google Ventures investment))
Do those things sound like the competencies of any one company? To me, they all sound like things that Google is good maybe even great at. Additionally, the founders of Google have the big, picture and long-term vision that’s critical in healthcare. Driving change in healthcare isn’t about meeting specific quarterly numbers. It’s about seeing the world in a new light where you want to drive change and improve things like childhood obesity. It doesn’t happen overnight.
I wish I knew more about Google. Someday, I’d love to work with them on some of these opportunities. If so, I could see this being a perfect fit in the Google X world. I could see them making a change as a core focus, as investors, or simply by creating enabling tools. But, at the end of the day, this is why I think health needs Google to have a focus here. It’s almost 20% of our GDP and something that impacts most people on a daily basis.