Insights & News

Google Helpouts: An Opportunity for Healthcare Marketers

Google Helpouts Waved Goodbye in Early 2015

Google recently announced Helpouts, a new way to get “real help, from real people, in real time.”

What are Helpouts?

Helpouts are one-on-one video calls between individuals and experts on a variety of topics ranging from arts and music, home and garden, fitness and nutrition, and health, a category wherein providers may deliver medical advice.

Providers can be individuals or brands. Some provide Helpouts for free, while others have flat fees or minute-by-minute pricing structures. Users can review provider qualifications, ratings, availability and pricing to inform which Helpouts they would like to purchase.

Health Helpouts: A platform for online medical advice and education

As a result of regulatory restrictions, healthcare marketers often shy away from social networks. Helpouts could be a safe place for brands and medical providers to engage with patients. Google has taken measures to ensure that Helpouts in the “health” category are compliant with HIPPA. This means patient privacy is ensured and data is secure, including medical records. Medical advice and educational information is already being dispensed on Google Helpouts.

Medical Advice:

One Medical is offering Helpouts for existing patients to receive medical advice by region. They recommend Helpouts for patients with colds, flus, and other common ailments.

Educational Sessions:

Banfield Pet Hospital is taking a different approach by offering educational sessions about pet health. They include a disclaimer that specifically states that information from their sessions does not constitute medical advice.

Could health category Helpouts foster a better understanding of healthcare?

It’s interesting to think about the impact one-on-one video chats could have in the healthcare space. It’s feasible that in the future, Helpouts could:

  • Connect patients in remote areas with quality specialized medical care, when they need it.
  • Reduce emergency room wait times as people with less urgent issues go online to get the care they need.
  • Enable hospitals and doctors to increase awareness about their services, build trust by educating patients one-on-one, and ultimately drive patients into the hospital or practice in-person.

What are the marketing opportunities?

If you’re a health or wellness marketer, don’t discount Hangouts as a passing fad. Audit the category your product or service offerings fall under to see how the early adopters are using the service. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Would our customers seek one-on-one advice online?
  • What problems would they look to solve?
  • Could we help them solve those problems via online video chats?
  • Should we charge for our council, or would we be better served to use Helpouts to build brand awareness?

Helpouts just might help you reach the right customer, at the right time, in the right way – a great example of Communications For Better Living™.

UPDATE, February 2015: Google has closed the doors on Google Helpouts. While this service didn’t strike a chord with the masses, this likely won’t be the end of the road for telemedicine.