Discovered by Jasonahoule and reported by Engadget it appears that Google has started a trial providing citizens who are Googling specific health terms on their Android Smartphones with the opportunity to click a link to join a completely free Video Hangout with a Doctor.
It’s surprising that details are limited because registered Doctors need very clear terms and conditions before they give medical advice (especially as they presumably have no previous medical history information on their Patient, limited capacity to provide follow up, etc).
Is this a Chat or a Consult?
I imagine Google are referring to the advice service quite informally as a ‘Video Chat’ with a Doctor rather than a ‘Video Consult’ (as you’d get with a service like we offer at 3G Doctor) because this will limit the T&C’s and responsibilities eg. Google could reason that a completely Free of Charge ‘Chat’ is to be perceived to be similar to meeting a Doctor within an impersonal, informal, non-committal occasion (which would fit well with an encyclopaedic type of general answer or a ‘yes you need to go and see your Doctor about this‘ conclusion).
Great news for Doctors who want to work with Patients beyond the office visit
I imagine the evidence from this trial (showing how safely you can improve access to Doctors) together with Google’s heavyweight lobbying resources will really help end the outdated legislation that prevents and discourages US Doctors from providing remote advice.
How long before this is gamed?
I wonder what Google will think up to stop a citizen from searching random health terms until they get offered a free Video Chat and then once live with a Doctor talking about whatever they really wanted to talk about?
Who are Google’s Doctors?
It’s probably safe to predict the consultations are being provided by
the Doctors on Demand service in a bid to ‘prime the pump’ and get Patients using their service (and presumably funding it with the millions of dollars they have landed in financing from Google Ventures and Sir Richard Branson) but I wonder if any mHealth Insight readers have anymore details on how or why Google are funding this trial?
Google has always been several years ahead of the healthcare industry when it comes to advertising, but I wonder how keen Big Pharma will be on the direct to Patient advertising opportunities that these free Google Hangout Video Chats will offer? Why struggle to give away free branded pens & mugs to Doctors when you can invest in keywords so that you’re sponsoring only the Patients who want to have conversations with Doctors about your drugs?