Google Health sharing–simple but potentially important


Today late afternoon PST Google flipped the switch on an important change/add to Google Health.

Recently they’ve been adding more and more little features, such as printing & graphing, and in the last month getting CVS retail pharmacies on the network (to join Walgreens), and sucking up device data. But this new one may be the most interesting, as Google Health has added the ability for users to invite others to see their records.

Anyone who’s used Google Docs (and that includes all of us working at Health 2.0) immediately gets addicted to sharing those spreadsheets and text documents with a wider team. It’s so easy, you just invite them to it, and then one day you wake up and you’re sharing hundreds of documents with everyone you work with and cannot imagine how you did it before.

For Google Health (and the details got a mention on the main Google blog today) they’re starting sharing relatively slow. Up until now they haven’t had any ability for one person to see into another record unless they know that user name and password. (Do you trust your husband/wife that much? )

Now you can invite anyone to a “read only” view. It’s all or nothing sharing, so they get to see for now everything in your record. Presumably there’ll be changes to that in a later version.

But for now it looks and works just like sharing in Google Docs, in that you can invite anyone. There are some slight differences, in that the receiver cannot edit and cannot re-share, and they have to accept the link from the email (it doesn’t just show up automatically in their Google Health account)

So now people will be able to share Google Health with their families and caregivers. But obviously the big next phase is people offering to share these records with their physicians. We’ll see but this may well be the killer app the PHR has been looking for—after all now a doctor just needs one Google sign-in which they almost certainly have anyway, and they can see all the Google Health PHRs of the patients who start sharing their records with them. And they will. This has the potential to be really disruptive.

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11 replies »

  1. Um, Matthew … you do realize that HealthVault has offered sharing from the get-go, right?

  2. Patients need to know how to be careful with their online personal health information. Data security is an important concept that most of the younger people get, but most seniors still need a lot of help in this area.

  3. It seems that each new improvement is a double-edged sword that can cut both ways. I can see many disturbing issues related to privacy and controlling how much someone is allowed to see of a person’s records. But at the same time, there are huge benefits. It seems that there is always a period of adjustment to new ways of doing things. I think user feedback will be very helpful.

  4. But but but Marissa Mayer and her “live-out-loud lifestyle” were featured in NYTimes business section last Saturday OMG!!!

  5. Yes, JD, I have quite a different take on GHealth’s activities to date and find this latest release to actually be quite a let down. I mean really, all they did was add existing Google Docs functionality to GHealth, hardly revolutionary, h*ll, hardly evolutionary as various iPHR solutions have had this capability for years and in HealthVault’s case, you can actually discretely tag fields for sharing. Do I really want to share “everything” with whomever I send a share request to, I think not.
    Now Matthew does argue that Google is taking a logical approach of adding features here and there and building out the capabilities of GHealth. There is also some truth to HealthVault possibly taking too complex a path forward.
    OK, I can buy that, but honestly, expect far more from GHealth than what they have done to date, I mean let’s at least have some basic capabilities like advanced directives, entering one’s health plan and ICE info, etc. This is not that hard to do but GHealth continues to fall short on delivering the goods.
    And don’t even get me started on the lost opportunity with Android…

  6. It is a great progress…I think there is still a question of privacy, the portability, and selective sharing.
    One of my partner has developed a great tool which addresses all and more. Of course, he does not have the power of google’s resources.
    We plan to go commerical in few weeks.

  7. jd, no question that Google has fewer people working in health, and hasn’t spent the resources MFST has. But if you look at the pattern across the company it creates products and slowly enhances them. And as it enhances them it creates a web of log-ins all sharing them together.
    And they are improving all of them, slowly but surely. Gmail now has an offline component, same with calendar, docs is getting better, etc, etc. Checkout has lots of problems, the Blogger upgrade took too long, search itself hasn’t upgraded as quickly as its rivals (not that it matters for market share), but overall, their product strategy is pretty compelling.
    As for health, I’m convinced that easy sharing of accumulated data (added to services) is the key to getting wider use.
    This in no way means that I think MSFT’s strategy is wrong, or that they’re not doing a good job, but they’ve taken a more complex route.

  8. Interesting. Very different take than John at Chillmark. I’m interested to hear what you think of the belief that Google is not devoting nearly the resources to GH as Microsoft is to HealthVault, and thus falling farther behind.

  9. This is a good thing.
    During my near-terminal cancer two years ago I made enormous use of sharing my data (in Beth Israel Deaconess PatientSite). It made a vast difference to me: without pelting docs etc with eternal questions, I could invite medically knowledgeable relatives and friends to have a look, explain things to me, give me questions to ask the docs, etc.
    All in all I got a sense that I was more actively engaged, able to do something other than just sit powerlessly and hope.

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