Google Helpouts: The Virtual Future of Healthcare

Could the future of healthcare be powered by virtual technologies?

google helpouts

The healthcare industry has started to attract the focus of technology and new media companies. New startups are entering the industry, and even Facebook is starting to turn its efforts to healthcare. Now, Google may be connecting searchers with doctors through live video and Google search.

While researching “knee pain,” Reddit user jasonahoule saw a pop-up offering to connect him with a healthcare professional via video chat for free a free trial period. According to Engadget, Google confirmed it is “testing a Helpouts-style feature which offers video chats with doctors when you search for symptoms.”

Helpouts are Google hangouts hosted by those with verified credentials. Verified experts can charge a fee to host a hangout in which they’ll give advice to willing participants. Reddit users commenting on jasonahoule’s post speculated as to whether this new medical consultation service would be rolled into the existing Helpouts infrastructure.

“When you’re searching for basic health information — from conditions like insomnia or food poisoning — our goal is provide you with the most helpful information available. We’re trying this new feature to see if it’s useful to people,” a Google spokesperson told Gizmodo.

This isn’t the first move towards a telecommunication solution for healthcare. In May of this year, Tempe, Ariz.-based Mercy Hospital broke ground on the first “Virtual Care Center” in the U.S.

“The center will bring together the nation’s best telehealth professionals to reach more patients, develop more telemedicine services and improve how we deliver virtual care through education and innovation,” Lynn Britton, president and CEO of Mercy, said in a statement.

With the size and revenue generation capacity of the healthcare industry, it was only a matter of time before tech companies started to make inroads. As companies like Google start to put their substantial resources and background in big data services into the healthcare field, they could bring big changes to all industries involved.