By Vineeta Vijayaraghavan and Clayton Christensen
The opinions expressed are their own.
It may seem that the viability of electronic health records looks dismal after the failure of Google Health, yet in integrated health systems around the country they have been implemented and utilized by patients. In Google’s failure we must see an opportunity to address the fragmentation of our healthcare system and take notice of those health systems that are offering innovative services that help provide better care at a lower cost.
Earlier this month, Google announced that it was closing down Google Health, its foray into personal health records, because it failed to find “a way to translate limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people.” Based on 30 years of research, we are firm believers that technology will enable disruptive innovations in healthcare – the types of innovations that will dramatically lower costs, increase quality and improve access to millions. But Google Health was doomed from the start. The obstacle standing in the way of its success was the massive fragmentation of our healthcare system, and its closure signifies the urgent need to integrate healthcare.
Google thinks big. With Google Health, it would have loved to solve the fundamental problems facing consumers – making it easier to schedule appointments and communicate with doctors, allowing patients to manage medications remotely, or even helping them avoid the doctor’s office entirely. Accomplishing these goals would have almost certainly inspired consumers to embrace electronic health records. But to do so, Google needed a fragmented maze of insurers, hospitals and medical groups to also share their data, requiring them to clear complex regulatory and privacy issues to complete the onerous process of bringing their own information online. These organizations do not have the right incentives in place to invest in such an effort, and so Google Health failed.
There is only one way to speed up the process of getting robust health records online, and that is integration. Over the last year, we closely studied seven integrated health delivery systems – which typically contain a medical group, an insurer and a hospital – and found that electronic health records are immensely popular with consumers enrolled in the systems because they solved their most urgent problems.