Another Use for Google Wave: Therapy

January 5, 2010

There the article, “Poll Reveals Havoc of Unemployment  on Workers and Family”, in the New York Times that reminded me of an article I read awhile ago about video conference or virtual therapy for soldiers, which has been a topic in the news lately. More often, it seems, in the wake of the Fort Hood shootings. There are also been articles on the long-term unemployed struggling under burdens no one expected, and then a Wall Street Journal article out today, “Studies: Mental Ills are Often Overtreated, Undertreated” that got me thinking: What about Google Wave as a tool for counseling?

Let that sit for a minute while you think of what normally qualifies as “counseling” or, to be less confusing, therapy. “Counseling” is a term that gets tossed around by many different groups, and thus has many different meanings. College counseling. Credit counseling. Legal counseling. You get the idea. “Therapy” is usually distinguished by another description or qualifier, like “physical therapy.” Without such a distinction, it usually means psychotherapy.

Therapy falls under a favorite health care insurance term: “pre-existing condition.” And seeking treatment for even the most minor of issues, like job transition stress, can be considered grounds for denial. Most health insurance plans don’t cover therapy anyway, or cover such a small number of sessions it is not worth submitting claims. Psychologists and other therapists still take insurance, though, but many do not for a variety of reasons. I never quite understood that until my own battle with individual insurance coverage, which you know has been an enlightening experience on many levels. It’s kind of ridiculous that “health” is not an all-encompassing phrase. It has to be divided into “physical health” and “mental health,” with “physical health” receiving the majority of coverage and “mental health” being an after thought.

After coming across the above mentioned articles, meshed with the chaotic mess of health insurance, I found myself thinking Google Wave, along with Skype, might provide a low-cost, not to mention more convenient, alternative to the standard form of therapy. Standard form as in showing up at an office at a specific time to discuss a topic (or topics) for a 50 minutes (though you pay for 60, I think). And there is that potential hazard of being “seen” though I think in this day and age, no one would pass judgment. We could all benefit, on some level, from therapy, no?

Continued talk of budget cuts, especially in Illinois, make people nervous. Some service is other is always on the chopping block, and our support systems are failing, failed or on life support. Take the CTA, the way most people get around in Chicago. Instead of worrying about your bus route getting cut, or service reductions, both of which would impact your ability to get to the office of a therapist, making therapy a “luxury” instead of a “necessity,” wouldn’t it be nice to just plop down in front of your computer at home? Log into Wave or Skype and start chatting for 50 minutes, then sign off and move on with your day. Or call it a night.

Of course, there are a few barriers. Not everyone has access to the Internet, and probably wouldn’t feel comfortable Skyping from the library (if Skype is even accessible from the library). Or even using Wave since, well, Google would know more than you care to admit. Yes. That’s right, the big “P” as in “privacy.” Patient confidentiality. Not necessarily a guarantee if using Skype or Wave or any other form of electronic communication. That is precisely why the profession is slow to adopt email. But if people willing type information into Google that they wouldn’t dare share with anyone else (so claimed a CNBC segment about Google), then using Wave for therapy does not seem that far a stretch.

This aversion to technology is bothersome and annoying. Don’t get me wrong; I understand why. However, it is time to overcome that aversion in the name of better care and better service. Someone, undoubtedly, will play the “eye contact/facial expression” card, arguing that you just can’t provide effective therapy if you aren’t able to read the nonverbal cues, or hear the tone of voice. I beg to differ, especially since Skype has video capability.

And not all therapists have an aversion to technology. Do a couple Google searches and you’ll find those who have built sites around email therapy, or some kind of online talk therapy. Moving to Wave wouldn’t be too difficult, especially if Wave can be hosted on their own servers instead of Google. May not matter. No doubt all email communication contains a lengthy disclaimer at the bottom.

Perhaps Wave and Skype are not the best tools for long term therapy, but I’d wager them to be effective for short term therapy. Alas, we won’t know until some people somewhere try it out. And that requires a therapist and a patient (participant?), or a few, to try it and see what happens.

I’ll let them figure out the whole issue of billing/payment. PayPal seems the obvious choice, or perhaps industry standard billing methods still apply. I bet there’s a way to better qualify (quantify?) that, and streamline it as well. Now wouldn’t that be something?

I’m curious to see what people think of this. No doubt there are other uses for Wave in the medical profession, and many other professionals, as well. Merely scratching the surface, as they say, no?

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Google Wave Potential Boon for eDiscovery

October 20, 2009

There’s been much hype and criticism of Google’s new…um…tool, Google Wave. As just about anyone who received an invite will tell you, the “tool” is hard to describe. Part of that, I think, stems from the limited number of invites, not to mention the lag from sending/requesting invite to actual receipt of invite. Wave is not that useful if you are the only one you know with an invite. To get any use out of it, right now, you need to know at least 3 other people, and then have some specific goal in mind, say writing an article or creating a user manual. Otherwise, it’s just a big idea board filled with randomness.

The list of annoyances, big and small, seems to grow every day. Having to actually click “Done” instead of hitting “Return” or “Enter” when I am done typing strikes me as a step backwards. And apparently there is no shortcut key for creating a new Wave either. There are no shortcut keys at all, it seems.

A nifty feature, though, got me thinking.

The feature is called Playback, and what it does is, quite literally, play back every single key stroke made in a given Wave. Letters, spacing, typos, deleting of typos or complete sentences, insertion/deletion of links, images, pictures…basically, if this were composed in Wave, you would be able to see every key stroke I have made and every mistake I have removed.

So what, right? Ah, but if you work in eDiscovery, it has the potential to save quite a bit of time. You don’t necessarily have to sift through mounds of data or see what may have been overwritten. That is all made apparent with the Playback feature. In theory, one can deduce intent behind deletion and/or additions to a Wave. And if one were to type something inappropriate or inadvertently disclose information, the act is recorded, and can be watched, just like rewinding a movie and watching that good part again and again.

This of course is all speculative. But until now, there has not been a “playback” feature for the Web. It’s all pieces, bits, that get broken up and then put back together, sometimes in very time-consuming, painstaking fashion.

If Wave is to catch on, and it being a Google product, how can it not, it may prove to be a boon for the eDiscovery industry, and perhaps the general legal industry as a whole.

Just some food for thought…