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Google Health's Lifeline Runs Out 196

Posted by timothy
from the when-that-lining-isnt-silver dept.
turing0 writes "As a former bioinformatics researcher and CTO I have some sad news to start 2012 with. Though I am sure not a surprise to the Slashdot crowd, it appears we — or our demographic — made up more than 75% of the Google Health userbase. Today marks the end of Google Health. (Also see this post for the official Google announcement and lame excuse for the reasoning behind this myopic decision.) The decision of Google to end this excellent service is a fantastic example of what can represent the downside of cloud services for individuals and enterprises. The cloud is great when and while your desired application is present — assuming it's secure and robust — but you are at the mercy of the provider for longevity." (Read more, below.)
turing0 continues: "I am surprised to see Google abandoning Google Health just when we can see the benefit to personal health when micro sensors such as the Nike Plus and Jawbone's UP bracelet are entering the market. Greater amounts of personal health data can be gathered now via smartphone and then turned into valuable preventative as well as useful diagnostic medical information.

Shuttering Google Health is a surprising and short-sighted decision on Google's behalf, IMHO. Perhaps closing the Google Health service is not 'Evil' per se — but given the immense magnitude of financial resources at Google I cannot believe Google Health will make a decimal place of impact on Google's operating costs. Services like Google Health are a fantastic public relations tool as well as an amazing potential source of raw scientific data if nothing else.

In closing, it's very funny to note Google suggests Google Health users migrate GH data to the Microsoft Health Vault. Hopefully some Web service other than Health Vault will rise from the ashes of Google Health. The real benefit in terms of Google being a custodian of my health and wellness records via Google Health was that Google as a corporation is considered a trustworthy intermediary by most users and health care professionals. Now I am not so sure; perhaps it's time to re-claim my email ..."
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Google Health's Lifeline Runs Out

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  • by bonch (38532) *

    Another day, another Google service bites the dust. At this rate, they're set to outdo Microsoft in the number of obsoleted APIs and services that they use to pull the rug out from under people. And why shouldn't they? We're not the customers. Advertisers are, and if a service isn't helping Google's advertisers, they're not interested in keeping it around.

    • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @08:42PM (#38559714)

      Had you actually heard about Google Health before today? Be honest.

      And if you had, what would your level of interest be in handing over your health records to google?

      Thats why this cancellation is really not any surprise at all.

    • by timeOday (582209)

      At this rate, they're set to outdo Microsoft in the number of obsoleted APIs and services that they use to pull the rug out from under people.

      Oh, you don't think Microsoft maintains ENOUGH legacy support? Wow. I don't think there's anybody out there who supports as much legacy hardware and as many legacy APIs as Microsoft. In fact I think that's the key to their niche in marketplace - it takes tens of thousands of programmers to carry as much cruft as they do, which is hard to duplicate.

  • New to me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crawforc3 (2450856) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @04:41PM (#38558086)
    This is the first time I've heard of Google Health.
    • by 1s44c (552956)

      This is the first time I've heard of Google Health.

      Same here. I'm wondering how many other services google offer that we don't know about.

    • Re:New to me (Score:4, Interesting)

      by imp7 (714746) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:04PM (#38559034)
      When I was working for a pharmacy chain back in 2007/08ish, and I got to see a presentation on Google Heath at a conference. Our software provider was partnering with Google to import all your prescription information into Google Health in real time. At the time the idea of being able to have several different pharmacies, doctor offices, and hospitals put your information into a central "electronic health record" was being pushed by Obama's campaign to lower health care costs and save lives. There was money to be had.

      Of course this would be an extremely valuable service for Google, but medical industry is very powerful and clouded by federal laws. As we move forward, electronic health records are still right around the corner and someone will make all the money. I doubt there will be more then one private entity storing your data, but then again it could be like Medicare D and you have to choose from 20+ companies.

      (By the way, the presentation on Google Health was the best and most professional presentation I've ever seen. They hire pros for real.)
      • by Kalriath (849904)

        But did they give out shiny pens and have scantily clad women doing the presentation? That seems to be how most healthcare vendors sell their products these days.

        (Disclaimer: I actually work in healthcare. I've seen some of the shit solutions that come of this sales methodology).

        • That people are stupid is not the fault of healthcare providers. Clearly this causes people to buy. In case you're confused, it means they want this.

  • How can goolge even have some like that under hippa laws much less sell ad's based on data in it.

  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @04:49PM (#38558138)

    I'm sure Google would be willing to keep the service running if you were willing to pay for it.
     

  • The load of money they have moving contains quite a few secrets which together make everything, very, very unpredictable. They tell us one thing and do other. Call me paranoid, but keep an eye out for any low-profit services that you use because you never really know when they are going to be shut down. Whether a huge company running it or not.
  • by Mannfred (2543170) <mannfred@gmail.com> on Sunday January 01, 2012 @04:53PM (#38558168)
    One way of interpreting the decision is that Google is finding it hard to make money off tech-savvy people (who probably use adblockers and can tell the difference between sponsored links and actual search results, etc).
  • Lack of Impact (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sirdude (578412) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @05:00PM (#38558218)
    Quoting http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/update-on-google-health-and-google.html [blogspot.com] :

    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.

    Considering the fact that I - somebody who in many ways spends more time on the Internet than off it - have not heard about this interesting service until today, I seriously doubt that the problem is that there haven't been enough takers. Yes, it sounds a touch megalomaniacal. But my conclusion is that Google has simply just not raised awareness about this product. With the amount of faeces being thrown all over the interwebz for other products such as Google Plus, I dare say that a small fraction of the resources expended could have saved initiatives such as Google Health from flatlining ...

    • by vlm (69642)

      other products such as Google Plus

      From what little I've found, it looks like G+ could adsorb google health and keep on going? Much like contacts and profiles and blogger and latitude and probably other stuff have kind of merged in.

      I'd be careful, though, with which circles get which posts. Maybe the mighty goog is rolling out tagged data, like data input as medical records can only be read by people tagged as medical professionals...

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIVN6-yd-xU [youtube.com]

      2012, year of the fart service.
         

    • Re:Lack of Impact (Score:4, Interesting)

      by stephanruby (542433) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @08:32PM (#38559648)

      I seriously doubt that the problem is that there haven't been enough takers. Yes, it sounds a touch megalomaniacal. But my conclusion is that Google has simply just not raised awareness about this product.

      As a former user of the service, I'm actually not that surprised.

      Out of all the health services I was personally using, the only service that reliably plugged into it was my Walgreens pharmacy. Of course, my doctor could have used it himself, but I didn't even ask. Ever since I've migrated to the US from France, I've given up asking non-French doctors to fill out my medical blue book (my medical blue book contains all the medical records I've had since I was a baby, I do not know if they still use it in France now, but I love having all my medical information summarized and centralized in one thing that I actually have control over).

      For me Google Health was just like a big empty spreadsheet that I needed to fill out manually (except for my medication information which could get automatically imported from my pharmacy). I just didn't see any immediate pay off in taking the time of entering that data in it. May be, if I ever have a kid, it might be cool to start keeping something like that from the very first day of his birth (or even sooner, by recording the prenatal care the mother is given), to later give it to him for his information, but for me personally, it just isn't worth it unless my insurance or my doctor's office started participating in it as well (otherwise, I'd just end up duplicating a lot of information manually without a real reason for it otherwise, or just start using something like Excel/Google Docs instead).

      • by Splab (574204)

        I'd never heard of google health before, but I guess it's because here in Denmark, the service is build into our public healthcare.

        Any medicine taken in your lifetime (that requires perscription) is registered automatically and can be pulled using your social ID and your "nem id" (password + onetime keypad).

  • So I've heard google health described in the past as pretty much mint.com but for health records instead of finance records.

    1) Is that even remotely close?

    2) What is the goog equivalent of mint.com WRT finance?

    I could see if goog isn't going to compete with mint in the finance aggregation arena, and obviously GH is flushed, so maybe they are not interesting in being in the general aggregation market?

    A side question, since supposedly there are /. readers who used GH, could you specify what actionable items y

  • by ledow (319597)

    Had never heard of it (despite using a lot of Labs stuff).
    Nobody I asked had ever heard of it.
    Wouldn't use it if I had.
    Nobody I asked would have used if it they had.
    Nothing that can't be replicated elsewhere, by the look of it.

    You can bias the summary as much as you like and call it a myopic decision but I'd much rather they spent the money on something I'm likely to use or see being used at least.

    If an ENTIRE Google service can pass myself, and others just as technical, by until its closure then it's quite

  • by SplashMyBandit (1543257) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @05:18PM (#38558342)
    Web-based services (aka, 'Cloud' services) are convenient and have a lot of advantages (which I won't repeat here unless asked).

    One big thing is that the server-side has all the control. I find this great for me as a service provider. This is one reason companies love providing these services.

    However, as a user of various services I realise I have no control. If the services I rely on were to disappear tomorrow there is nothing I can do about it and I'm totally powerless to stop it. The service provided may even be profitable for a provider but if it is not proftable *enough*, or there are cost cutting mesures being done by corporate head-office then the service can be axed. Even if the service is critcal to my business

    So the lesson to be learned is the same point made by the Free Software advocates. If software is critical to yourself or your business then you must ensure you have complete *control* of the software, all the way down to having the right to modify the source code if you need to. The convience of web-based services will never compensate for the loss of control. It is a strategic business decision to make: control (the long-term strategic view) or convenience (the short-term tactical view). I fully expect lots of sob stories like this to appear until the vendors start pitching back to CIOs that they could regain control by bringing stuff in-house again (for a fee, of course). Using Cloud services is no different to the 'offshoring' fad that the wise avoided for critical capabilities, followed by the realision that it doesn't always work and the resulting 'onshoring' renormalization. Expect a term like 'in-housing' or something similar to appear in trade rags in a couple of years.

    Whatever you do: don't lose control of your critical software and services (and use Free Software!).

    • And do you guys trust online bill statements? Same problem.

      I'd rather they PGP email, or mail-drop an encrypted statement every month than park it on their site (and wait for me to remember to download it) for the amount of money they're making off me every month.

  • by alfrin (858861) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @05:20PM (#38558352)
    I've been an avid user of Google Health for a couple years now. Since the decision to end the service was announced, I've attempted numerous times to find some sense of replacement from HealthVault. HealthVault is a great service, but its hardly equivalent. For instance, HealthVault is merely a storage system for your raw data, and to view it or continue to keep track of it, you have to utilize other services (such as through the Mayo Clinic) with which HV interfaces to manage. It has a lot of possibility, in that you can utilize many specialized services from many different places, however it fails at keeping the experience seemless. You always know that you are leaving to a new site, and often times go through redundant logins and registrations.

    Google Health however kept everything restricted to a couple pages. Your blood pressure measurements, weights and other vitals were displayed in concise graphs The greatest strength of Google Health was its stripped down visuals and your ability to create your own trackers for virtually any metric. I used it to keep track of my migraine headaches in hopes of finding a trend which would reveal possible triggers. Some of the services, such as the Mayo Clinic's personal health manager, which use HealthVault offer similar customization, but they are very stripped down, the interfaces are clunky and, once again, it takes an annoying amount of log-in's and desperate clicking to get into the service.

    I wish Google would just release the source, so that someone else could construct their own version. I for one would. I loved it.
    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      I used it to keep track of my migraine headaches in hopes of finding a trend which would reveal possible triggers.

      Have you tried taking wheat gluten out of your diet for a month? My wife had a lot of problems with both migraines and chronic fatigue syndrome; taking gluten out of her diet pretty much fixed it. Getting rid of caffeine also helped. The only problem is that so much food has gluten in it that it's hard to get away from it, but there's more and more gluten-free stuff coming out, and many rest

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Good news! You can now get gluten-free hummus! Which is the same recipe as before they put the sticker on the package, but they sure are proud...

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Yes, there's a bunch of products where they're slapping "gluten-free" on the packaging even though the product never had gluten to begin with. They're trying to cash in on the craze with people who want gluten-free but are ignorant of what kinds of foods contain gluten (mostly anything made with wheat, barley, or rye: bread, pasta, etc.). However, it's not all bad: there's a surprising number of foods out there that you wouldn't immediately suspect to contain wheat, but if you look on the ingredients list

  • by markdavis (642305) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @05:20PM (#38558358)

    The concept of Google having any access to health information is frightening, to say the least. They already have way too much information about way too many things for way too many of us, already.

    I have a feeling I am not alone in this feeling about the Google overlords and this might have contributed to the non-popularity of Google Health. And no, I wouldn't want to give health information to Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, or Microsoft either!

    I am amazed regarding the postings here of people who have never heard of it. But for those people, Wikipedia is your friend:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_health [wikipedia.org]

    • Let's put all medical info on the internet, publicly accessible. Let's include DNA sequences and video of all medical procedures. This would be wonderful for accountability (billing fraud, malpractice, etc.) and research. It would increase continuity of care, particularly when you show up unconscious far away from your normal care provider. It would cut down on the spread of disease, especially if we added mandatory testing for disease: you can look on the internet to see if your date has an STD. It would c

      • by markdavis (642305)

        >"In short, the benefits would be astronomical."

        Yeah, I guess the concept of privacy just has no meaning to modern society. One could/would never be prejudged by those with access to such information, or be a victim of unfair discrimination. There could never be misleading or incorrect information about someone in such a system.

    • by UpnAtom (551727)

      I think Gattaca should be compulsory viewing these days. It was a bit unrealistic - a government with that much power not abusing it??

      And Google themselves are turning evil for much the same reason.

      We'll soon be in the age of aborting perfectly health foetuses because they have addiction genes, or cancer genes. And people want to trust Google et al on not selling this information to potential employees or health insurers?

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @05:42PM (#38558520)
    Turing0, how much were you paying for your Google Health? what service guarantee did you get for your paid contract with them? Oh, $0 and nothing. Quit your whining, so a free trial balloon was cancelled, pony up some bucks for an equivalent service with a vendor and then you'll have a right to complain about service or lack thereof.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      There's a difference between "whining" and "publicizing". If a company like Google starts pulling the plug on service after service, even if I didn't use those services, it's important to me to know, so I can decide how dependable the services I DO use, are. Every time Google turns the lights out on another service.. Wave, Knol, Health, etc, I start to have second thoughts about Gmail, Picasa, Reader, etc. And it's also a big reason why I'm not buying in to Google+.

  • This isn't specific to the cloud. This is one of the risks when you put anything crucial to the existence of your business completely in the hands of a single other entity. It could be as basic as having a sole source for a part that you have to have available to manufacture your product. If that supplier goes out of business or discontinues that part, you're SOL. And since you don't have any control over them, you can't do anything about the situation. Your only recourse is what every businessman has known

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @05:53PM (#38558594)
    Seriously. I never recommend to my customers that they rely on "cloud services". In the last year or so, even Amazon and other services have gone down, taking innumerable websites offline for unpredictable amounts of time.

    Just recently, an Amazon server went down, and a customer was notified that their site was down and that they had 48 hours to save the site or it would be gone... and they received the notice about 24 hours after that 48 hours had already expired.

    Other people I know have had other, similar experiences.

    My advice to customers is: DO NOT make your business dependent on the performance of "services" over which your have no control. You are putting all your eggs in someone else's basket, and that's just plain a Bad Idea. And that includes everything from depending on Google Apps to sites on EC2.

    I'll pass, thanks very much.
    • by codepunk (167897)

      It is called disaster recovery and just because you are running on a cloud providers infrastructure does not eliminate the requirement.

      My advice to customers is to plan for failure recovery just as you would if running in house.

    • Seriously. I never recommend to my customers that they rely on "cloud services". In the last year or so, even Amazon and other services have gone down, taking innumerable websites offline for unpredictable amounts of time.

      Indeed. It's far better to rely on your own servers - after all, they never go down.

      • That has almost nothing at all to do with it.

        There are two issues here: first, many sites are dependent on more than one external service to work. Maybe they're hosted on EC2 and load all their javascript from google.com or jquery.org.

        All they are doing is multiplying their possible points of failure.

        Second, if your own server goes down, YOU can decide what to do about it. You don't have to sit around in the dark waiting for somebody else to get around to it... if they ever do. (Like the Amazon inc
    • You do realize that there are "services" that 99.9999% of the population must rely on. Like WAN/Network Services. I believe people were using the term "WAN Cloud" well before the term was applied to server/application clouds.

      Dunno about you but the company that I work for (very large IT company), doesn't own all the dark fibre in between it's world wide sites and leases quite a few WAN circuits from various telco providers.

  • by kuhneng (241514) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @06:06PM (#38558664) Homepage

    Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault's personal health records (PHRs) are well known in health IT circles, but even among the health IT and healthcare informatics professionals I work with, uptake has been very shallow. There have been connected PHR-enabled sensors available for weight, blood pressure, blood glucose, and many other biometrics for some time, but again, very little interest in flowing this data into stand alone PHRs.

    Stand alone PHRs aren't the only way to facilitate doctor-patient interaction. Many leading electronic medical records systems (EMRs) offer integrated personal health records - the disadvantage being that these records only show the data from one provider or health care system. Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) are rapidly springing up across the country to facilitate provider to provider data integration and provide a compelling model for direct patient participation in their care.

    Personally, I've tracked these services for years but I've never bothered to create an account. Entering my information manually is tedious, and the standards and integration between EMRs and stand-along PHRs is emerging at best. If I had a fully populated PHR, it's not clear what value I'd really get out of it. My main provider already has most of my information and can source information directly from other practices when needed. Doctors are culturally suspicious of patient submitted data, as they have concerns about amateur self-diagnosis and drug-seeking patients.

    The way Google is winding this down increases my trust in their other services. Google announced their plan to shutter Google Health a year and a half before the final shutdown date. They're offering multiple data export and migration options, including instructions and support to migrate to their largest competitor, HealthVault. I've had significantly worse experiences with migration / upgrade of many paid services / software - I'm looking at you Intuit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Treffster (1037980)
      I am a full-time software engineer working in Health IT, specialising in in-hospital cross-system integration. Our business is accepting the data feeds from lab systems, radiology systems, ED information systems, and patient administration systems, and then present the results as a cohesive single health record.

      Well, you'd think standards and compliance would make it easy, but that assumes when people say they meet the standard... they ACTUALLY meet the standard. Format is one thing, but ensuring corre
  • by eulernet (1132389) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @06:53PM (#38558956)

    I'm surprised that nobody noticed it: Google is stopping all its future innovations, and concentrate on short-term revenues, which is a decision from their CEO, not by the cost of maintaining the current tools (it's a very small cost).

    Something similar happened in 2000 with the 3M company, when James McNerney from GE became the new CEO.
    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_24/b4038406.htm [businessweek.com]
    In 5 years, 3M, which was ranked as the most innovative company in the world, fell at the 7th place.
    This year, 3M disappeared from the 50 most innovative companies, check here:
    http://www.businessweek.com/interactive_reports/innovative_companies_2010.html [businessweek.com]

    McNerney focused on using Six Sigma, and improving productivity.
    3M, based on a culture of innovation since 100 years, had its internal culture almost destroyed in only 5 years.

    The inventor of post-it said that it would have been impossible that the "post-it" concept would have been successful using the new method.

    In my opinion, it's a very short-sighted decision, as you can see with Microsoft and IBM, which invest a lot of money in innovation.
    It's impossible to predict what will work in a few years, and I doubt that the current monopoly of Google on Internet ads will long very last.

    Now, let me give a prediction:
    currently, Apple and Google are ranked 1st and 2nd as the most innovative companies.
    I bet that in 2 years, they won't be in the top 10 anymore.

    • by fnj (64210)

      This has happened in many American and western companies, at a grossly accelerating pace in recent years. Useless fucking business management droids don't have a clue what makes a society flourish, and they can do a lot to destroy it.

      Capitalism at work, guys.

      • by eulernet (1132389) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @08:00PM (#38559468)

        No, it's not because of capitalism, since IBM and Microsoft are probably even more capitalist than Google or Apple.
        It's a human decision.
        Do you focus on your next quarter, or do you see farther ?

        Google encouraged its employees to work 20% of their time on innovation. Now, I'm sure that this is no more the case.

        Google is taking the easiest route, and when you stop taking risks, you don't create anymore.
        The option "let's cut all useless expenses" is necessary only when you are in big financial trouble, otherwise, it's just plainly stupid.

        Let's see how the stock market will respond now.

        • by TubeSteak (669689)

          Do you focus on your next quarter, or do you see farther ?

          Google has a dual class stock structure.
          Sergey Brin & Larry Page control 48% of the voting shares and they're rich enough that they don't have to care about the next quarter.
          If Google is shutting down projects, it's because that's what the two top dogs want. No one has the votes to tell them how to run the company.

    • by cbope (130292)

      I can agree 100% with this, and as someone who survived a GE acquisition, I feel the pain. Luckily, GE bought us to acquire some of our other technology units and we were sold off after a couple years. But, during the years we were under GE, innovation stagnated. We learned that GE really stands for "good enough". Our GE tenure put us 3-4 years behind the competition, taking into account the catch-up scenario we were left with after separation from GE.

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