Can Modern Telemedicine Close Global Health Gaps?


Last year Google launched Helpouts, a video-based marketplace where people can share their expertise with the world.  Users can get advice on any topic, but Google is particularly pushing the medical expertise portion.  It’s pretty natural in today’s digital age to “google” whatever illness you might be suffering from at the moment.  Sometimes, online information isn’t accurate and even irresponsible.  This is particularly problematic as the costs for health care go up and more people seek alternative ways for treatment.

Helpouts attempts to fill the online knowledge gap by allowing users to schedule hangout meetings with real health experts who can advise them about their ailments, ranging from the common cold to knee injuries to even breastfeeding.  Some of the advice is free, but most of the experts charge fees by the minute (Google takes a 20 percent cut).  These medical professionals can even prescribe medication online.

On the surface, this seems like a great idea for providing better healthcare to more people.  The positives are you can see a medical professional at your convenience and at a more affordable rate.  The GWA staff had a heated discussion about this form of telemedicine last week when we decided on this topic for this week’s blog post.  Some of the staff believe this is another way to deal with contagious illnesses like Ebola, where a sick person can just get online and correspond with a doctor instead of traveling to the hospital to seek help, while potentially infecting others along the way.

Other staff members believe that online video chats can’t always properly diagnose an illness and in person consultations are still needed.  Furthermore, it was argued that this type of telemedicine is only available to those who have regular access to the Internet and electricity, which would exclude many in Ebola stricken countries in West Africa.

So we want to know what you think about modern telemedicine. Have you used Google Helpouts?  Do you think it will help close the global health gap? Leave a comment below or email us at info(at)globalwireonline(dot)org.     

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