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Could Google's HelpOuts be a market place for expert patients?

This week, Google introduced a new product, HelpOuts. The idea is pretty simple: experts make their time available, at reasonable rates. Anyone can sign up for time with an expert. Google touts using HelpOuts for things like learning a language, doing yoga, getting help with computer programing and…wait for it… healthcare services.

On this week’s TWiG {This Week in Google} podcast, the hosts very quickly see the healthcare applications. In fact, they even postulate about using HelpOuts for assistance navigating [Healthcare.Gov](] and the insurance marketplace.

You are thinking what I’m thinking, right?

For starters, this throws the doors wide open for the idea of telehealth. For the price of a co-pay, you could dial up a doctor for a quick consult via Google Hangouts.

But, wait, there’s more!

What happens when patients are the experts? What if hospitals, doctors, and health systems could buy time with patients? Hey, we want to do this new service, would that be valuable for you? Or perhaps, could you help us review our new patient portal and offer suggestions for improvements?

I love these marketplaces which disintermediate the whole concept of expertise and time. We’re increasingly accepting of the idea of patients as experts. But, to date, there hasn’t been a great way to find the best patient experts by area of expertise and availability. Might HelpOuts prove to be the for pairing patient experts with provider organizations, other patients and the healthcare industry at large?

I bet, collectively, we can grow a list of some pretty clever healthcare uses for HelpOuts. For instance:

  • Employee health services
  • Dietary and wellness counseling
  • Billing and insurance form review - this one has huge potential, in my mind!
  • Rural healthcare delivery
  • Midwife and doula coaching
  • Second opinion
  • Medical librarian service for patients - someone who helps find articles and interpret them for patients

What thoughts come to your mind? Anyone thinking about signing up as an expert?

This Week in Google 223

Creepy, Malicious or Helpful - Google and Health related searches

Leo: "You search [Google] for psoriasis and you are telling the world..." Jeff: "So what if you have psoriasis.... what's the harm to [a patient who has type 2 diabetes] and google gives you ads.... we have to get down to [what is the real harm] and not have this discussion up here about creepyland"

That's the start of the conversation at towards the end of episode 132 of This Week in Google. Jeff Jarvis goes on to suggest Google has a vested interest in protecting people's data. He makes the point, if Google were to cross a line from what is perceived as creepy into actual malicious harm, their goose would be cooked. People would never use Google again. Jeff thinks the benefit we get from Google knowing more about us, coupled with their business interest, outweigh the risks.

Is he right? Do you think search engines know too much about us based on our search habits? What about this conversation in particular, around health related searches - a topic many hold as close to the vest as financial records?

I see both sides of the coin. I recognize the concern many have about not wishing to disclose sensitive health data for a various number of reasons - secrecy, perceived fear of insurance or employer reaction, data ownership, etc. I also see the value in a site like google knowing enough about me to return relevant results, based on a holistic picture of me. So what if they serve me related ads at the same time?

Curious what you think...

Here's a direct link to the conversation, starting at 1:03:30

This Week In Google 132: The Google Father - YouTube.

Its all about .ME

google profile I am not a huge fan of the "personal brand" sentiments. Something about pushing yourself on people rubs me the wrong way. That said, I do really like the idea of controlling your own identity online. After all, if you don't own it, someone else will!

In the past I have used iWeb and .Mac to compile a list of all of my internet profiles. The challenge was remembering them all and keeping up with the static page. Google has recently introduced Profiles ( where you can claim your identity across the net. It appears that the more your tell it, the smarter it gets. Start with creating a profile and linking to your homepage or twitter account. Pretty soon google starts finding other sites on the net that appear to belong to you - facebook, flickr, vimeo, etc. Additionally, when someone searches for your name, your google profile will appear at the bottom of the search results. That means the likelyhood of someone finding the real you is much higher.

Not only is Google Profiles a great way to control your presence online, it is a powerful aggrigrator of our online selves. Take a look at mine - and you'll see what I mean. Things get even more fun when you use a vanity domain and point it to your profle. In my case, I have used NickDawson.ME which redirects to google profile. A profile and a .ME domain is an easy way to share your online contacts with anyone. Imagine creating a business card with nothing but your .ME address. "Want to reach me, here is a one stop shop".