About a year ago, Google offered a virtual handshake with physicians by offering an affordable and HIPAA compliant platform for physicians to offer virtual doctor visits to patients called helpouts. The HIPAA compliance piece requires a physician to check a box stating the expertise being offered is patient-specific healthcare advice and then providing medical license information as proof of knowledge. Some physicians have checked out this new tool and are now offering affordable virtual consultations to existing patients. Now one year later, Google is experimenting further with this telemedicine approach by giving some web searchers direct access to physicians when they search for specific health concerns such as eye or ear infections, flu-like symptoms, etc. In other words, the person searching doesn’t have to know helpouts exist. Google will bring the helpout to the person! This new search and help approach is currently only taking place with California providers, but if it is successful will likely be available to providers across the United States.
With all of the recent healthcare changes and challenges related to ObamaCare (or is the politically correct term now Affordable Care Act?), remote health advice was bound to be one of the solutions to gain popularity. After all, with more people consuming healthcare and fewer people providing it (due to lower reimbursements and general physician shortages), video chatting helps manage this “traffic” by eliminating the unnecessary resources needed to move patients through a waiting area. IN ADDITION, the recent Ebola scare makes not going to a doctor’s office where other patients can potentially “share” their afflictions is a welcome solution.
Patients have long been using the Internet for health advice. According to Pew Research, 72% of Americans admit to going online in the past year to gather health information. At the same time, healthcare providers voice concern over the volume of misinformation that is out there. One e-patient advocate even proposed a Snopes-style approach to misinformation. So what better way to improve the quality of medical information on the internet than to SEO optimize resources provided by physicians themselves? So why are sites like Wired.com bashing this concept before it even gets off the ground? Do they have some better solutions to misinformation … or are they contributing to it? Only time will tell. Until then … Patients google away and see if the doctor is
IN ON in your area. Physicians get out there and take advantage of all the wonderful technology that is being unveiled in healthcare. Something has to change, so let’s be on the cutting edge as it’s happening!