Google’s Helpouts is a service that aims to connect users to free or paid instructional content and consultations. Many commentators believed (SocialTimes included) that Google Helpouts would be the start of a revolution in the healthcare industry, wherein users could get real expert medical advice online.
Unfortunately, Google has announced that it is shutting down Helpouts on April 20. In a brief statement, Google stated that the reason for discontinuing Helpouts was because the service “hasn’t grown at the pace we had expected.”
According to The Verge contributor Kwame Opam, Udi Manber, Google’s VP of Engineering at the time of Helpouts launch, was optimistic about the potential of the service. Manber even compared the service’s potential to that of online shopping. However, it’s now clear that the potential was never realized, despite the company the praise lavished on the contributors.
Other providers are still optimistic about the potential for virtual health care. Mercy Hospital in Arizona announced last year that it was building the nation’s first “Virtual care center,” and that center is slated to open 2015.
However, developments in the field of digital healthcare have not been promising lately. Some studies have shown that medical apps can be inaccurate, and may have caused medical complications for some users.
After its launch Google Helpouts was predicted to change the medical industry. Maybe it’s demise is an indicator that users aren’t all that interested in medical apps. There are plenty of predictions from the industry side that medical apps are going to be huge. But if demand isn’t there, the time may not be right for such heavy investment in the field.
Clearly there are improvements to be made to the health care industry, but perhaps the better avenue of focus is big data. Health care already dominates the big data conversation, so why not focus on that first before trying to give users a product they don’t seem to be interested in?