Once again, Google is headed back to the drawing board to rethink its healthcare strategy. As first reported by Business Insider, the tech giant is dissolving its single, unified Google Health division, founded in 2018, in favor of a distributed approach to building health products. The head of the division, David Feinberg, is leaving the company, while an unknown proportion of Google Health employees will be sent to other teams at Google (like Search and Fitbit) to work on specific services, according to Google’s AI head Jeff Dean.
It’s a messy change for what was already a messy initiative. Tech giants like Google and Apple have become increasingly interested in the healthcare industry in recent years, but have failed to make in-roads in such a fractured ecosystem. Google’s efforts in health have at least been fittingly disparate, covering everything from Android fitness apps, to AI-powered eye-disease detectors, to bungled data deals, to medical study apps, to sleep-tracking features in the Nest Hub, to machine learning tools for clinicians. And so on.
Google Health was supposed to unify these efforts, giving some sense of purpose and direction to the company’s sprawling ambitions. The brand dates back to 2006, but Google seemed to be embarking on a more serious path in 2018 when it hired respected healthcare exec Feinberg. As this recent news suggests, that hasn’t worked out, though the Google Health brand will live on. As tweeted by Dean: “@GoogleHealth is no longer just a single team, but a significant company-wide effort that touches many of our products. Moving forward the @GoogleHealth name will encompass all our health initiatives.”
What does that mean for you, the avid Google Health consumer? Diddly squat, really. If you enjoy using any of the company’s current health products — whether that’s wearing a Fitbit or Googling “why am I tired all the time” at 3AM in the morning — then these core experiences will likely continue exactly as before. Whether or not Google can offer anything more meaningful from its healthcare strategy, though, remains to be seen.