Google Health: Succeeding Where Traditional HCIT Systems Have Not

Google will present its healthcare platform, Google Health, to the public during a webinar to be held this coming Wednesday, December 10. The webinar will begin at 10am PST and is open to the public (register here).

Google Health offers a fully-featured web-based solution for organizing your healthcare information. Having spent some time using Microsoft's competing HealthVault service a few months ago, I can say without blinking that Google, to be frank, has nailed it.

Why the patient wins

Within minutes of setting up my Google Health profile, I had essentially completed all the paperwork that we are all too familiar with filling out when we go to a new doctor's office or hospital. I was able to fill in my problem list, surgical history, list my allergies and add my physician contact information.

The process for adding information to your Google Health profile is as simple and straight-forward as the other Google products we are used to seeing every day, such as Gmail, iGoogle and of course, search. Notably missing however is integration with Maps and local search; I spent several minutes looking for my primary care physician, who has a very common last name, and eventually gave up on locating him in their database.

Encouraging is the already long list of services which can be integrated with Google Health. These include everything from e-Prescribing vendor Allscripts, to laboratory services provider Qwest Diagnostics, to health insurance providers. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts who will soon be my own insurance provider is there, so next on my list will certainly be linking my BCBS account with my Google Health profile so I can experiment with what this integration might offer.

Trouble ahead for future integrations

Given my experience working with healthcare IT products, Google Health is by far the most promising endeavor into healthcare information systems integration I have seen to date. Likewise, I am not surprised to learn that healthcare IT vendors held a bit of animosity and cynicism towards this new kid on the block when Google CEO Eric Schmidt unveiled the product last February at the industry's annual HIMSS conference. After all, HIMSS is largely comprised of vendors who have spent many years and millions of dollars working to bring healthcare IT into the 21st century and Google is an outsider. And an 800lb gorilla outsider at that, stepping into a relatively conservative industry known for its resistance to change.

Coupling Google's mission to organize the world's information with their lens of simplifying the user experience may ultimately trump the business systems lens which traditional healthcare IT vendors see through. Add to this President-Elect Obama's pledge to modernize our nation's healthcare system and CEO Schmidt's personal endorsement of the incoming President. All of this comes together as a trifecta that could very well elevate Google Health to a level of success and market penetration that others in the healthcare technology arena have been striving to achieve for decades.