A Medicare test of Personal Health Records due to start soon in Utah and Arizona may also be a test of Google's market power.
Google Health is one of four vendors authorized to offer PHR services under the pilot to Medicare fee-for-service patients. The other three are:
- HealthTrio, a Colorado start-up that markets through health plans and claims pending patents on its PHR system. It also has experience at this sort of Medicare pilot in South Carolina.
- NoMoreClipboard.com , an Indiana start-up which integrates with both Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault.
- PassportMD, a Florida PHR outfit which claims a "concierge service" reminding consumers of when they need check-ups and has been endorsed by former Good Morning America star John Lunden.
What Google faces, in other words, are competitors who are adept at marketing to consumers, at marketing through health plans, and at working with both governments and other vendors.
Will Google's share of market among the target group blow these three out of the water? Will the service it offers deliver equivalent value to patients?
These are worthwhile questions which I hope the coming tests will answer. Google may think of these rivals as "tomato cans" on the way to the championship bout with Microsoft, but it had best take these competitors seriously.
That little "beta" button on the Google Health logo will not be an excuse for failure.