There’s been another big step in the move toward treating patients online.  Google is getting involved in the online medicine craze.  With a giant like Google behind telemedicine, the trend could really take off.  Although some oppose mixing technology with the traditional patient visit, treating patients online has the potential to help turn the medical field in a more positive direction.

Google Helpouts is a new video service powered by Google connecting users with experts of all types in real time.  From lactation consults and counselors to guitar teachers and business coaches, if you need assistance Helpouts has the know how.  Google calls these experts providers and screens providers before accepting them into the Helpout system.

While Google’s new Helpout system caters to experts from all industries, the system was built with the healthcare industry in mind.  The Helpout system is HIPAA compliant allowing for secure, private conversations between users and healthcare providers.  Google is partnering with One Medical Group in the venture offering 20 minute consultations with a physician.  The service is recommended for patients with simple medical problems like colds and rashes.

Moving from the clinic to the computer has nothing but positive notes to offer medicine.  Chronically lagging technologically, medicine could stand a fresh solution to the usual stuck in a waiting room being coughed on scenario.  When you’re sick with the flu the last thing you want to do is bundle up, drive to your local clinic and wait an hour for your appointment that was supposed to start 15 minutes ago.  Grabbing your laptop and a box of Kleenex and simply logging on to a computerized alternative for an affordable, fixed cash price seems a much more palatable alternative.

Not only is a system like Google Helpouts convenient for patients, providers will find it an exhilarating alternative to working in the clinic.  Whether providers take their practices completely online or choose to work in a clinic or hospital with a supplemental online component, treating or consulting with patients online gives providers flexibility and an unprecedented level of convenience.  Traveling?  No problem, whip out your laptop and see a few patients while on your trip.  Sick?  No worries, you can treat patients from your couch.  Now healthcare providers can be added to the numbers of individuals able to work from home.

Opponents of the telemedicine movement say there’s no substitute for an in person patient-provider interaction.  You can’t take vital signs over the computer or do a proper physical exam. Yes, there are some medical problems that must be treated in person.  But, for a health consultation, second opinion or simple medical problem, treating patients online could revolutionize healthcare.  Increasing the convenience and comfort of medical care has nothing but positive implications for medicine.


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