Google is taking a second attempt at storing personal health records. It first explored the idea in 2008 but shut it down in 2012 because widespread adoption was not possible at the time.
According to Stat News, Google is working on a health records tool similar to Apple's Health Records app. The tech giant is hoping to recruit about 300 Android users in Chicago, Atlanta, and Northern California to test its early access program, the objective being to explore how users would like to view, organize, and share their medical records.
Google first attempted creating a health records app in 2008, when it launched Google Health. The app was supposed to help people access their medical records online. However, the project was not successful and was shut down in 2008.
“We haven't found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people,” the company wrote in a blog post in 2011.
Experts had a number of theories about Google Health's failure. Some said it failed because Google did not demonstrate to people that it could be trusted with medical records (in the same way it hasn't shown it can be trusted with many things.)
Others said it failed because, at the time, not many people were interested in accessing their health data online. And, others said the company did not invest enough in the health IT sector.
According to Stat News, this time, the timing could work in favor of Google. There is a federal information blocking rule that was recently introduced that allows patients access to their health records through health apps. Additionally, health apps, such as Apple's Health app, have been widely embraced, meaning people are more accustomed to handling their health through smartphones and other digital devices.
Google's health records app, which is still in its early stages, is only available to Android users whose medical records vendor is Epic. In a statement to Stat News, a spokesperson for Google said that the company was “running a user feedback program to test features that give users the ability to collect health information from their provider patient portals.”
The spokesperson added that the health data collected would not be sold to advertisers or used for Google ads. The company will encrypt the data and store it in the cloud.
The tech giant is also working on a health records app for medical practitioners, called the Care Studio program. It will provide medical practitioners with an easier way to search and access patients records. Other efforts in the health sector include Nest Hub, a sleep tracking software, and a research app that allows Android users to take part in medical studies.
According to Bob Wachter, the head of University of California San Francisco's department of medicine, Google is “making progress” in the consumer health record sector.
“It didn't knock my socks off,” said Wachter, who helps Google in its health records programs. “But I think they're doing it in a thoughtful, measured, and mature way.”
The same way Google does everything else?