Last week Google unveiled Google Helpouts, a new service that allows users to pay for a Google Hangout video chat sessi0n. One of the applications that was most intriguing? Telemedicine.For those of you unfamiliar with the term, here’s what it means:
tel·e·med·i·cine noun 1.the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology
Telemedicine is basically a way for people to get treatment for basic illnesses without ever having to go to the doctor’s office. It’s faster, more efficient, and cheaper, too. Now, what if instead of using the telephone, you used your computer? That’s where Google Helpouts come in.
To start, Google Hangouts has categories for art and music, computer and electronics, cooking, education, fashion and beauty, fitness and nutrition and home and garden. For now, Google is screening people and companies that want to offer their services through Helpouts. Users review will help control the quality of providers.
The category with the most intriguing potential is health services. 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 HIPPA 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.
Telemedicine is not a new idea. Companies already offer therapy sessions and one-on-one physician appointments over video. It’s great for people who are far from proper medical facilities or who are homebound because of illness.
I’ve just started to seriously consider telemedicine options for our staff, and this is yet another avenue to help make that option more viable. The “teledoc” options in our local area are normally 100% company paid, but there is no copay, no insurance reporting, and no limit to the number of times an employee can call in.
Anyone else using or considering telemedicine in their employee benefits? Would something like this appeal to your staff? Why or why not?