Google announced today the addition of two new health insurance companies to its Google Health platform at the Health 2.0 – original naming FTW – event in San Francisco. The fact that the company is touting this addition on its main blog is telling because it cuts to the heart of the product’s main challenge.
You see, Google Health – which enables you to store and manage all your health information in one place on the Web – can be a great service but it only becomes truly useful when your own health insurer and health care providers sign on to participate, since they are the ones who generate and keep your personal health data.
And flocking to it, they ain’t.
With today’s addition of both Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and the American Postal Workers Union Health Plan to the program, the current count of participating insurers is three (Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA joined late last year). Needless to say, there are hundreds more health insurance providers in the United States, so it’s going to be a long haul for Google to include the majority of them in the program.
And even then it’s going to be a challenge for them to provide a seamless service to users; Google in the past has admitted that wrong or incomplete data can cause Google Health to be more of a nuisance than an added value.
Amusing enough, today is the same day that sees the public launch of Keas, a VC-funded startup headed by former Google Health head Adam Bosworth. The fledgling company was profiled in the NY Times this morning and aims to combine personal data with general health information to deliver tailored health plans for individuals, designed by wellness experts. Bosworth has set up partnerships with both his former team and their biggest rival, Microsoft HealthVault.