Let's hope Google's restructuring helps to keep its health efforts on track

It's been a busy few weeks for those toiling in the health units for the company formerly known as Google, and if we're lucky, they will only get busier and busier in the months and years ahead.

Why do I say that? Because in my view, Google (er, Alphabet), for too long, has been this slightly sleepy lumbering giant within the health industry--sometimes moving closer to the center to spur innovation and then just as quickly, stepping silently away to sit quietly on the perimeter as other notable players remain in constant proximity to the heart of advancements.

Here's a quick recap on what's taken place with Google over the last month:

  • As was previously alluded to, as part of a corporate restructure, Google is forming holding company Alphabet, which means that healthcare initiatives like Google X and Calico could receive much more attention. Google X and Novartis are developing smart contact lenses for monitoring glucose levels. The Calico project is focused on solving aging issues.
  • Additionally Google Glass is undergoing a revamp, targeting specific business niches including healthcare, and Google is looking to distribute the new Glass version to businesses by the fall; an updated consumer model could be a year away. The latest iteration is similar to the first Explorer device, minus the wire fame.
  • Glass has been piloted in several hospital and healthcare settings in the past two years or so and the latest research reveals Glass may be a viable device for teletoxicology.

All of that is great and positive for Alphabet's role as a health innovator. The problem, though, is it's not enough evidence to trust that the company is in the health game for the long run. A look back at its past illustrates that all that health innovation can be just as easily put on the shelf and shoved away in a closet.

For starters, the contact lens project was announced in January, 2014, nearly 18 months ago--that's a long time span in the tech world.

What's more, one its earliest forays, the Google Health personal health record, debuted in 2008 and was gone by 2012, due in large part to poor consumer uptake.

It's hard not to recall services within the company in other areas that have popped up, then languished and then were quietly buried, as well. For instance, it's on its fourth generation of social networking tools (Buzz, Friend Connect, Orkut and now Google+) and still hasn't given Facebook any reason to sweat.

Following the transition, hopefully some of the aforementioned efforts will receive the attention they deserve. It would be a loss for the industry if the company continued its habit of switching tracks and left its health efforts to languish. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)

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