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.
Kevin 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 Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.