The veil came off the world’s worst-kept secret in healthcare IT Thursday, as Google chairman and chief executive Eric Schmidt announced the beta release of Google Health at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference in Orlando, Florida.

For now, the product is limited to the US market, though Alfred Spector, Google vice president of research and special initiatives said the California-based company has “started making contacts” with health authorities and potential business partners in unspecified international markets.

Google are not commenting publicly on potential business partners, but Schmidt addressed the issue in a press conference following his keynote address to the HIMSS conference.

“One of my regrets is we’re launching a US-only product, and the decision is a legal one,” Schmidt said. He noted that most health systems in Europe and elsewhere are run by governments, and thus a Google product would require government approval in those locations.

For now, though, as E-Health Insider reported last week, Google will test its product with 1,500 to 10,000 patients at the Cleveland Clinic, a prestigious private medical institution. The test will run for approximately two months, though Schmidt would not commit to a date for a general release of what now is a beta product.

In the US, patient and doctor uptake of PHRs has been notoriously slow, despite the proliferation of healthcare organisations, health insurers, independent technology companies and even large employers offering PHRs in a variety of flavours.

Schmidt said Google can change that by delivering a product that is not “too vertical” or “too specialised” like other PHRs out there.