During HIMSS there was the usual crowd at the Google booth.
The show giveaways -- plastic tape measures (shown) and zip-pouches with emergency supplies (band-aids and aspirin) that can be clipped to a backpack -- were welcome and very popular. That's why they had to be kept in these huge plastic tubs. The tubs were refilled regularly.
But there was nothing shown at the Google booth that wasn't available in 2007. There were screens showing Google Health, and screens showing Google enterprise services. That was all.
Some new partnerships were announced, and C|Net's headline in that was accurate. But these were just a small piece of the market -- three medical centers, an e-prescribing service, and one device company -- using Google Health.
Given that the rest of the health IT industry was moving into overdrive at this show, it was underwhelming.
Full disclosure. I have a reputation for being pro-Google, anti-Microsoft. This bias stems naturally from my first beat here, open source. But it's also reflected in my personal preferences. I search Google almost exclusively, keep its toolbar on my browser, and frequently use Google Chrome and GMail. I have even Buzz'd.
But the buzz at this year's HIMSS show was decidedly anti-Google. There was fear expressed in the aisles, fear I heard personally, that the company only wants your personal data so it can exploit it, make money with it. Google can't be trusted was the summary.
Here is why. Microsoft has pursued the health IT sector on its own terms, Google has done so on its terms. Microsoft insists HealthVault is merely an ingredient in other players' solutions. Google wants Google Health branded to Google.
Microsoft has used its industrial alliances to build an interoperability glue factory. It now knows how to connect a lot of Electronic Health Record things to a lot of other things. It understands how health exchanges are built. Windows is the main operating system of health IT. that
Right now, Microsoft's reputation within the industry is better than that of Google. Microsoft is seen as an upstanding HIMSS member, while Google is still seen as a foreign presence.
Microsoft's booth at this year's HIMSS show was equal in size and scope to that of any mainline hospital software vendor -- McKesson, Cerner, or Siemens. Google's stand was only a little bigger than two years ago, despite the fact that this year it flew a cute round sign over it with its logo.
Can Google come back? Certainly. But this was not the show where you wanted to be seen as trailing.