It was first noticed by someone on Reddit and then confirmed by Engadget that Google has been testing a Google Helpout style feature which offers a telemedicine video visit with a doctor. You can see an image of the test Google search telemedicine integration below:
This is a really interesting integration for a number of reasons. First, Google wasn’t charging for these initial test visits, but would no doubt charge for these visits in the future. Second, it takes an Act of God to get Google to integrate something into their cash cow: search results. That should tell us how serious Google is about doing these types of integrations.
I can already hear the naysayers who think this is a terrible idea. They might be right as a business. We’ll have to see how that plays out. The reimbursement model could a challenging one. Plus, there are plenty of reasons why this won’t work. Google will have to get really good at knowing when to offer a visit and when not to offer a visit. We’ll see if they want to make the investment required to understand when the visit is something that should be encouraged and when it shouldn’t be encouraged.
One thing I’ve observed with Telemedicine is that it can really work well…if you have the right situation. The reason Telemedicine has gotten a bad rap is that the naysayers have plenty of ammo they can use to explain why Telemedicine could be a terrible thing. These naysayers are correct. There are a bunch of healthcare situations where a telemedicine visit just isn’t going to work. However, just because something doesn’t solve 100% of the situations doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used for the 30% of the time (I think it could be more than this) that it’s a beautifully elegant solution that’s just as effective as an in office visit?
As noted, this was just at trial by Google. Google is well known for trying things to see how they do and then scraping them after the trial. So, we’ll see how this goes. It does seem that Google can’t keep its hands out of healthcare. I think they see the trillion dollar industry and just can’t resist.