Google Helpouts: New Tool for Medical Practices?

Google has launched a new service dubbed Helpouts that has the potential to become a useful tool for doctors, dental practices, clinics, hospital departments and other healthcare providers. In what might be called an expert version of Hangouts, Google’s popular video chat phenomenon; Helpouts offers secure, pay-per-use video consultations with vetted experts in fields ranging from medicine and fitness to home repair and makeup application.

With home-based and digitally-delivered health care poised to play a larger role in preventive medicine and chronic disease management (see our previous post), Helpouts could provide a practical launch platform for the delivery of telemedicine services. Secure and HIPAA-compliant, the site already meets important healthcare security requirements which could make it a viable medical practice partner. And its marriage to Google Wallet provides a structure for billing services, a feature that is expected to become increasingly important to medical practice solvency as telemedicine wellness care replaces office visits.

Presaging things to come, Helpouts expands Google’s legendary search capabilities beyond the web’s virtual world into the real world. As Udi Manber, Google’s point man for Helpouts’ launch explained at a press conference covered by the New York Times tech blog Bits, Google’s mission is to organize the world’s useful information. But if you do search for a long time, you realize most of the world’s useful information still resides in people’s heads. Hangouts is attempting to tap that human brain power as a new search resource by lining up experts who can provide personalized responses to users’ search queries and, as highlighted in MedCity News, some forward thinking healthcare providers are starting to get on board.