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Google Helpouts: Live Video Competition or Marketing Opportunity?

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

imagesGoogle Helpouts: Live Video Competition or Marketing Opportunity?

If “Helpouts” was just another Silicone Valley infant—with high hopes and little funding—it might not survive long enough to write about.

But multi-national biz giant Google (of search engine fame and fortune) launched this new online, live video-help platform recently. And when your first name is Google, it’s worth watching closely.

“Health” is one of eight service categories available via Google Helpouts, and it brings patients and healthcare providers together online. “Help when you need it over live video,” says Google. The promise is “real help from real people in real time.”

A close relative to Google Hangouts, the concept is to connect individuals online to get and give help over live video…sometimes free, sometimes for a fee. Google asks, “What if you could connect via real-time video to a music teacher or a yoga instructor from the comfort of your home?” Categories include Art & Music, Computers & Electronics, Cooking, Education & Careers, Fashion & Beauty, Fitness & Nutrition, Health, and Home & Garden.

“The category with the most intriguing potential is health services,” reports CNN. “People can have a counseling session, consult with a dietitian or get advice from a registered lactation support consultant over the video chats. There are partners doing basic triage through registered nurses, and pet care experts available to talk about why Mr. Fluffersons has lost his appetite.

“Google Helpouts are HIPAA compliant to address privacy concerns, and Google is checking credentials for any providers in the medical field. There is no framework for getting a Helpout session covered by insurance, but Google thinks the category has potential to become a regular part of modern health care.”

A random sampling of health helps and rates that we found:

  • Advice About Your Foot and Ankle Concerns (DPM, Podiatrist) Free
  • Carpel Tunnel Information (Orthopedic surgeon) $30/15min; $5/min
  • Lactation Consultation Varies; free; $1.50/min; $10/15 min
  • Medical Questions/Review Medical Cases (MD, Cardiologist) $50/15 minutes; $3/min; Pre-schedule; next available time listed.
  • Mental Health Counseling $50/45min
  • Nutritional Counseling
  • Parent Coaching $175/hr
  • Pediatrician-led Breastfeeding Support $150/hr; $2/min
  • Physical Therapy Advice $10/15 min
  • Relationship and family conflict support $60/45 min

Worth Watching: Marketing Opportunity or Provider Competition?

Providers in any Helpouts category are evidently screened for appropriate qualifications, and once approved, the live video chat consultations are done according to their own schedule of availability (and price.) A multi-star user rating and feedback system is also likely to influence provider quality.

Various news articles indicate that payments flow through Google Wallet, with Google capturing 20 percent of the fees. However, health category providers are not yet being charged, and we wonder if there are legal issues still to be resolved.

The inaugural offering did not include many medical doctors or—as far as we could determine—any physician assistants or nurses available for general medical consultations. Of note, the concierge network—One Medical Group—provides free consultations using, but limited to their existing patients only.

It appears to be too soon to know with certainty, but with the considerable strength of the Google online empire as fuel, Helpouts is likely to grow. It’s well worth watching. In time, it could become a significant live/two-way video platform in the healthcare industry and in tele-medicine. (Imagine the boost if Google highlighted Helpouts in its online search results, for example.)

With growth, it’s also likely to shapeup as a unique marketing opportunity for health systems, hospitals and providers. And as such, it would also represent a new competitive influence in some market areas.

We’ll be watching; look for supplemental posts down the road. We’d like to hear what you think.

FOR MORE: See our previous post about competition and tele-medicine kiosks, Why Your Healthcare Competition is Worse Than You Thought.

See how Healthcare Success transforms doctor marketing by generating exposure and increasing qualified leads!

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

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