Google Helpouts is creating a lot of buzz online.
It’s a tool where people can connect with, and get help from experts anywhere in the world via real-time, one-on-one video chat.
So for example if you’re preparing to go out on a date and need help putting on makeup like a pro, you would simply browse the Helpouts section under ‘Beauty and Fashion,’ find out what time the next professional make-up artist is available, schedule an appointment, pay a fee via Google Wallet, show up at scheduled time, and get the help you need!
Opportunities for Healthcare
Google Helpouts looks like a compelling alternative to the more traditional ‘in-person’ method of providing medical care.
Already there’s a small number of physicians who are early adopters – many are charging a small fee to give advice on a wide range of health issues including preventive health, cardiology, pediatrics, travel medicine and so on.
The swelling interest in Google Helpouts for healthcare suggests that there may be tremendous opportunities for the industry. Here are 4 ways Google Helpouts could impact healthcare.
1. Huge audience, quality care
While the idea of video consultations between doctors and patients isn’t new (think telemedicine) the difference is Google itself. Google has a way of drawing tons of eyeballs on anything it does so expect to see a lot of initial interest from providers, patients and other stakeholders in the industry.
Telemedicine has been widely credited with providing high-quality care (e.g. managing high-risk pregnancies) and driving healthcare costs down. While Google Helpouts aren’t meant to replace a user’s regular doctor, they still could be very helpful in certain situations, like when a doctor’s visit isn’t quite necessary yet the patient needs advice about a simple infection, or a cold, flu, skin rash etc.
2. Low cost of care
Google is taking a 20% cut from all other Helpouts except from health-related Helpouts (at least for now). This means that doctors can keep their consultation fee low since they don’t have to pass the cost on to patients.
I checked to see how much doctors are charging and the average fee is about $2 or $3 per minute. I even came across one doctor who’s helping out for free – he has several outstanding reviews! If Google Helpouts can help to keep the cost of healthcare down, then this might be a real game-changer in the industry.
3. HIPAA compliant
Google went out of their way to make sure that Helpouts are HIPAA-compliant. That means they have some big plans for healthcare. But for now, providers and physicians can use Helpouts with full confidence, knowing that sensitive patient information will not fall into the wrong hands.
Problem is, people are still queasy about revealing personal information online. They will not be comfortable talking about really sensitive medical issues. If Google could put this privacy problem to bed once and for all, then things could really start to get interesting.
4. Multi-lingual capabilities?
The linguistic diversity of American society already presents major communication challenges in doctor-patient interactions. In fact many providers and health centers have to pay for translation services for patients who don’t speak English.
If Google were to introduce a multi-lingual dimension to Helpouts or at least find a way to attract more bi-lingual doctors I can imagine what that might do for Spanish-speaking, or Mandarin-speaking patients, many of whom have a really tough time explaining their symptoms to their physicians.
How do you see Google Helpouts impacting healthcare? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.