Google Aims to Reinvent the Housecall


The modernization of medicine has all but eliminated the housecall, but Google aims to bring it back – after a fashion – with it’s “Helpouts” offering:

Google’s “Helpouts” product — a service where people can search for experts and talk to them over video — is running a trial program in which people who are searching for symptoms like pink eye and the common cold can video-chat with a doctor. The company is working with medical groups including Scripps and One Medical, which are “making their doctors available and have verified their credentials,” according to a spokeswoman.

Telemedicine is  an old concept. Doctors have been using the telephone since the telephone was invented. And they have been sharing X-ray images and using videoconferencing for at least 40 years, according to the American Telemedicine Association.

“This year, between 800,000 and one million consultations will be done over the Internet directly to consumers in the United States,”  said Jonathan Linkous, chief executive of the American Telemedicine Association. “So clearly consumers want this.”

The next time I’m running a fever or suffering from some mystery pain, it would be utterly delightful to be able to speak with a doctor by video conference instead of having to leave the house. I guess I’m Google’s target market. But I wonder how soon this service will be available so that I can speak to my doctor. Continuity of care is really important, especially when patients are taking multiple medications and seeing multiple specialists. Talking to a doctor one-off in a special situation is one thing, but the real revolution will come when I can talk to a doctor who actually knows me.


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