Tech Giants Continue Efforts to Disrupt Healthcare Despite Google Health Shutdown

Another attempt by an outsider to disrupt the healthcare market is apparently coming to an end. According to a leaked internal memo, after three years of operation, Google has decided to unwind its Google Health division. The memo, which was obtained by online media company Business Insider, was sent to Google employees in mid-August, just days after the announced departure of the division’s CEO David Feinberg.

The Rise(s) and Fall(s) of Google Health

Google hired Feinberg, who was then serving as CEO of Geisinger Health, to head the newly created Google Health division in 2018. His mission was to coordinate and lead various health projects operated by Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Those projects will now be reorganized with the health teams becoming part of Google’s research, search and device divisions. Meanwhile, Feinberg is moving on to become CEO of EHR giant Cerner.

Google has been down this road before. The company launched its first healthcare initiative, a personal healthcare records venture also called Google Health, back in 2009 before closing it down four years later. The original Google Health was similar to Microsoft Corp.’s HealthVault, which also shuttered in 2019 after 12 years of operation.

Google, Amazon, Microsoft Forge Ahead

The closing of the most recent incarnation of Google Health in no way signals the end of the search engine giant’s exit from the healthcare realm. “Google deeply believes in the power of technology to improve health and wellness and we have increased our health investments across the company,” according to an email from a Google spokesperson cited in the Business Insider story. “Today, health is a growing, company-wide effort and the Google Health name will continue and encompass our projects that share the common purpose to improve global health outcomes.”

To that end, Google hasn’t disbanded the Google Health teams but rather reassigned them to other research ventures, including Fitbit, which Google acquired in January 2021. Google’s YouTube also formed its own health team earlier this year dedicated to addressing consumers’ digital health needs.

In addition, Google will maintain its cloud storage and innovation arrangement with the Mayo Clinic. Two years ago, Mayo Clinic created a clinical data analytics platform on Google’s cloud platform. The firms also launched a joint research project to study whether AI can automate aspects of radiation therapy planning.

And of course, Amazon and Microsoft will continue their own efforts to develop new cloud-based game changers in the health care space. But disrupting healthcare isn’t easy, even for proven companies who’ve demonstrated their business genius in other sectors.


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