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Even the Geek Doctor couldn't save Google Health

My first thought when I heard that Google Health is shutting down is, “what’s the Geek Doctor going to do?” My second thought was shock.

Dr. John Halamka, aka the “Geek Doctor,” has been one of Google Health’s biggest boosters since the passage of the Recovery Act and the HITECH Act in 2009. He has touted the use of personal health record (PHR) services as a key piece of the coming digital landscape in health care. He made PHRs a standard part of his frequent presentations on the status of meaningful use requirements, even going as far as showing his own personal Google Health record.

All of which makes it more surprising when Google announced the “retirement” of its health record service as of Jan. 1, 2012. This is from the company where beta projects live forever.

John Moore of Chilmark Research, who predicted the demise of Google Health more than a year ago, posted an interesting recap of its downfall this week, while Microsoft officials are giving kudos to Google for its efforts and using the opportunity to sell Microsoft HealthVault to consumers.

But that is the problem — consumers. Google’s issues were more about the PHR model than their service, which was considered very user-friendly. Doctors and patients haven’t bought into the concept. When you consider issues of privacy and security, ownership of and access to the records, and integration with payer, provider and health information exchange systems, PHRs have come to resemble the quagmire that is the health care industry in general.

PHRs’ time may come, but they might have to wait until the transition to the digital hospital is complete – and that may take decades.

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