The International Herald Tribune reports (story also in the NY Times) on new developments at both Google and Microsoft concerning their health product strategies. The long-rumored Google Health is apparently almost here. (See screenshots at Google Blogoscoped.) Health care-related advertising and marketing is a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. and Google and Microsoft are seeking to get a chunk of that spending. There’s also high consumer demand for the information. At the same time, however, there are challenging issues surrounding government regulation, as well as issues of consumer trust and privacy that dwarf the current controversy associated with cookie retention.
Metrics firm comScore previously reported that 31 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience (55.3 million monthly U.S. uniques) visit sites in the online health segment. And JupiterResearch found that 71 percent of consumers use search engines to find health-related information (with varying degrees of success).
Google recently invested in biotech firm 23andMe, which seeks to “help you make sense of your own genetic information . . . [and] put your genome into the larger context of human commonality and diversity.” And Microsoft recently acquired health search engine Medstory as part of a key verticals strategy. Here’s previous coverage of Google Health.
Despite the fact that that online health is a competitive segment with established leaders, such as WebMD, the usage of search engines as a consumer starting point for health information means that Google and Microsoft have a big opportunity, provided they can get the privacy issues right, and balance consumer interests against the potential ad dollars.