Am I Sick? Google Has a Doctor Waiting on Video
Taken from: http://nyti.ms/1yvN6fZ
The Internet can be a dangerous place to get medical advice. Stomachaches turn into cancer, stress becomes an endocrine tumor. Crack remedies and strange diets abound. Now Google is playing with a new technology that it hopes will help people find more reliable medical information. It’s called a doctor.
Google’s “Helpouts” product — a service where people can search for experts and talk to them over video — is running a trial program in which people who are searching for symptoms like pink eye and the common cold can video-chat with a doctor. The company is working with medical groups including Scripps and One Medical, which are “making their doctors available and have verified their credentials,” according to a spokeswoman.
“When you’re searching for basic health information – from conditions like insomnia or food poisoning – our goal is provide you with the most helpful information available,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
Health care has become one of Google’s biggest side projects. The company’s life sciences division is developing a contact lens that monitors glucose levels. It recently acquired Lift Labs, maker of a high-tech spoon for people with hand tremors.
Google has also used its tremendous coffers to fund Calico, a pharmaceutical company that is being run by the former head of Genentech. Calico recently announced a new partnership to build a Bay Area-based facility that will research diseases that afflict the elderly, like neurodegeneration and cancer.
“When you’re as big as Google is, there are only so many other markets that matter, and health care is one,” said Ben Schachter, an analyst at Macquarie Securities.
Telemedicine is an old concept. Doctors have been using the telephone since the telephone was invented. And they have been sharing X-ray images and using videoconferencing for at least 40 years, according to the American Telemedicine Association.
“This year, between 800,000 and one million consultations will be done over the Internet directly to consumers in the United States,” said Jonathan Linkous, chief executive of the American Telemedicine Association. “So clearly consumers want this.”
The $2.8 trillion United States health care market is a big target for all kinds of companies.
Apple announced a health-monitoring app, HealthKit, for its new iOS 8 operating system. The app logs statistics like a user’s footsteps, heart rate and sleep activity, and will be able to pull data from third-party fitness and health-monitoring hardware.
Apple also said it would allow makers of health-monitoring apps to integrate tightly with HealthKit. For example, the Mayo Clinic has retooled its app so that if a patient’s vital signs, like blood pressure, seem concerning, HealthKit can notify the hospital so that a doctor can reply to the patient.
Walmart has also been experimenting with ways to tap into health care. A PWC report has a case study of a recent Walmart partnership with Kaiser Permanente, in which Walmart opened 300-square-foot “Kaiser Permanente Care Corners” at two stores in California.
The centers had diagnostic equipment like blood pressure cuffs and, much like Google’s new “Helpouts” feature, they allowed customers to do video calls with Kaiser doctors and nurses.