Google Helpouts will bring telehealth to the masses

Google Helpouts will bring telehealth to the masses

Google Answers was a service that was launched in 2002 where users would pay money to ask questions, and a Google-vetted researcher answer them.

As many who have seen me speak know, I was a Google Answers researcher, where I answered health-related questions.

Google Answers closed in 2006, but recently, version 2.0 of Google Answers was announced: Google Helpouts.

This is essentially a video question and answer platform, where for a flat or hourly fee, people can ask questions to be answered by those Google hand-selects and runs background checks on.

Health care is an obvious target, as Helpouts make it a point to mention that its video interchanges are HIPAA-compliant.  Google also waives its 20% cut of the fee for health questions.

Already, a company called One Medical has a prominent presence on Google Helpouts.  Many others are sure to follow.

There is a tremendous demand for telehealth services, driven by provider shortages in the clinic, as well as people’s own busy schedules.  And frankly, some of what I see in the clinic doesn’t necessarily need to be seen in person.  For established patients, for instance, whom I need to monitor their blood pressure.  A remote option to monitor these patients would be ideal, both for me by clearing my schedule, and for the patient.

What Google Helpouts does is bring telehealth to the masses.  All that is needed is a Google+ and Google Wallet account and within minutes, patients can be video-chatting with a health provider.

Sure, there are risks.  Prescribing drugs, dispensing medical advice over state lines, interacting with new patients, and complicated mental health scenarios come to mind.  Let’s see how the health industry overcomes these obstacles.

But with Google providing the infrastructure to reduce the friction of remote care, this may be the seminal event that brings telehealth to the masses.

If I were a hospital or medical institution, I’d find out how to best leverage this technology before your competitors do.

Google Helpouts will bring telehealth to the massesKevin Pho is an internal medicine physician and co-author of Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices. He is on the editorial board of contributors, USA Today, and is founder and editor, KevinMD.com, also on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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  • Deceased MD

    So glad google has all the answers to the world’s problems.

  • EE Smith

    I am skeptical of anything Google does. They have a track record of
    violating their users’ privacy, both “officially” and “unofficially”. I wouldn’t trust them not to send my health sessions to the government or a politician who wanted them, or sell them to the highest bidder, or to “inadvertently” let one of their techs have full and free access to my data, to do with what he or she will (the case of one of their techs who accessed an underage teenaged girl’s gChat data in order to stalk her comes to mind).

    I *am* really excited about the potential for telehealth, but only through a direct provider-patient connection using secure software, not through a commercial third party broker with form for privacy violations (and being pretty unrepentant about them, too).

  • Rob Halkes

    Of course, Google is omnipotent ;-) It is easier to ask just a
    question, rather than just search the right information for yourself. I
    guess it will be a great service for anyone in their early phase of
    information need, one might state the “pre-professional” one of
    searching information. I do see it as another “social” channel option
    for people with health questions. But how to move on with your
    condition?

    Will it also stand against the upcoming full servivce
    (e) health platforms, integrating care from health/wellness phases,
    through condition arising, treatment and rehab..?Isn’t health development an inspiring and thrilling thing at a time?