The Problem With Google Health

Google Health, the self-managed patient portal that launched back in 2008, shut down on December 31st. According to Google's blog post, they made the move due to a lack of user adoption:

Now, with a few years of experience, we’ve observed that Google Health is not having the broad impact that we hoped it would. There has been adoption among certain groups of users like tech-savvy patients and their caregivers, and more recently fitness and wellness enthusiasts. But we haven’t found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people.

Google Health faced the same challenge that EHR (electronic health records) faced in driving adoption among physicians: everyone sees the long term benefit of getting patient information online, but in the short term, it's a lot of work.

In order to drive wide-ranging engagement and adoption of a self-managed patient portal like Google Health, there has to be an instant piece of value in return for the patient's time and effort. That value can be money, time savings, or some other functional piece of value -- the greater the value, the greater the adoption. Case in point: EHR adoption finally picked up after the government provided high value, short term financial incentives to physicians that reached an acceptable rate of usage.

Because Google didn't offer some kind of immediate, tangible benefit to their users they weren't able to drive the wide-ranging adoption they expected. It may sound a bit simplistic to claim that companies have to offer some kind of tangible reward to drive real adoption of a patient portal. But in some cases, it really is that simple.