Google+ made a big splash this week when it was announced Wednesday that the service is teaming up with the NFL to bring its Hangout video chats to the league’s fantasy football program allowing members to hold video chats with each other from their fantasy team homepage and trash talk to the tune of a webcam. If you haven’t heard of them, Google+ Hangouts allow you to essentially have a free face-to-face chat wherever you are for up to 12 people. Alternatively, you can use the Hangouts On Air feature to broadcast your Hangout publicly on your Google+ profile. These broadcasts are then automatically saved to YouTube and available for you to share wherever you see fit. Obviously, this opens technology up some potentially great interactions for physicians, but are they worth the trouble?

Are Hangouts on Google+ Worth It?

The honest answer right now is, we’re not sure. Google+ is still gaining momentum and recruiting already weary followers may be difficult for small to medium-sized practices, especially if you’re focusing a bulk of your social media efforts on another service, such as Facebook for instance. That said, there’s nothing that says you can’t cross promote and tell your Facebook fans about a scheduled Hangout on Air your planning. Promoting the Hangout on Facebook and in your office could make for a good turnout. And, like we said earlier, it’s automatically saved to YouTube for future sharing for those folks that couldn’t make it.

How to Create a Hangout

By now you’re probably thinking, “Why would I do that? It sounds like so much work!” Well, it’s not, so quit complaining. Starting a Hangout is as easy as signing into your Google+ and clicking the “Start a Hangout” button on the right side of your screen, pictured below.

From there you’ll be asked to install the Hangout Plugin on your computer. After Google has verified your operating software is up for the task, you can join your hangout and invite others to join you. That’s it. If you want to start a Hangout On Air, it’s the same process, but you’ll have to check the “Enable Hangouts On Air” box before starting your Hangout. That’s it. Then you can start streaming away.

Note: you will have to have a webcam and microphone on your computer OR a video camera handy. We felt like that was obvious to say, but you never know.

Potential Uses for Hangouts for Physician Offices

So now that you know how to make one, why would you actually create a Google+ Hangout? There are dozens of uses for physician offices, but here are few we thought would make perfect fits:

  • Weekly Patient Chats – Answer a common question you hear from patients each week. Obviously you’d exclude personal information to make sure everything is HIPAA compliant, but this gives you an opportunity to reach out to patients, position yourself as an expert and show your personality. Plus, if you were able to advertise within your office, your Facebook page and on Google+, you could potentially build a pretty loyal following that tunes in every week. And you’ll wind up with a ton of content for your website relatively quickly.
  • Office Tours – Give patients a sense of what it’s like to walk through your office so they can get used to the surroundings and what to expect when they first walk in. Again, even if only a handful of folks are watching, the recording is saved and you can share it later to get continued use out of it.
  • Presentations – If you’re speaking at a conference or meeting, start a Hangout and record it (this is in addition to hosting the meeting via Google+ Hangouts, which is always a possibility in and of itself). Then, if people tune in they can follow along with what they missed out on in person. Or if they couldn’t make the meeting, you can just share the footage with them later.

So there you have it. There are plenty of uses for your medical practice to start using Google+ Hangouts and Hangouts On Air to help grow your practice for free.

Now, don’t you have an NFL Fantasy Team to draft?