Google is making another attempt at personal health records

Google is recruiting people to give feedback for a new consumer-facing medical records tool, Stat News reported on Friday. The company wants to know how people want to interact with information pulled from their medical records.

Right now, the company is recruiting around 300 people who use Android devices in Northern California, Atlanta, and Chicago.

This is Google’s second attempt at creating a way for people to access their medical records. In 2008, it launched Google Health, which aimed to give people a way to see their health information online. It didn’t take off, and Google shut it down in 2012. “We haven’t found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people,” Google wrote in a 2011 blog post.

In the aftermath, experts had a number of different theories for the failure: some thought it was because consumers at the time weren’t actually interested in taking direct control of their health records. Others said Google didn’t do enough to integrate with the health IT landscape or that the company didn’t do enough to show people that it could be trusted with their health data.

A decade later, we’re in a very different digital health landscape. Apple launched a health records section in its Health app in 2018, which lets people pull their records from hospitals and clinics directly onto their iPhone. Health apps have proliferated, wearables are adopting wellness features, and people are more and more accustomed to handling their health information through smartphones and other devices.

Google is also working on the doctor-facing side of health records; its Care Studio program gives clinicians a way to search through patient records more easily. Other health efforts include a research app that lets Android users participate in medical studies and a Nest Hub feature that tracks sleep.

Google is “making progress” on the consumer health record initiative, Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told Stat News. He advises Google on its health records projects. “It didn’t knock my socks off,” he said, but “I think they’re doing it in a thoughtful, measured, and mature way.”

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