Why #HealthXPh also chose Google+’s Hangout On Air as a platform for it online conversations

(This is a three part mini series by the author on Google+ ‘s Hangout on Air. The first part explains why #HealthXPh, apart from twitter chats, chose Hangout On Air as a platform for its online conversations. The second part is a mini how-to, to help out healthcare advocates set up their own HOA. The third part will deal on HOA etiquette which we hopefully would incorporate on future HOA)

In #HealthXPh, we agreed to explore the various social media (#SoMe) platforms to discuss emerging technologies that may impact healthcare in the Philippines. On one hand, we used #SoMe to widen #HealthXPh’s reach and funnel audience to the main platform(s) we intend to concentrate. What platforms #HealthXPh will concentrate remains to be seen.

We have yet to figure out ways to evaluate feedbacks and metrics about the effectiveness of the platforms we currently use for our advocacy. In a sense we are all newbies to these platforms, exploring its use to healthcare fairly recently.  We feel we need to get comfy with these platforms to max out its potentials for healthcare. So far we’ve chosen Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Hangout on Air (HOA) as our platform for “conversations” online (termed “convo”). The choice of the first two is basically because of its wider, faster reach but I will discuss those in my future post.

Hangout On Air is something new to all of us at #HealthXPh. Hence, the decision to use it as a platform for conversation  is more of an “exploration” rather than anything else. Aside from twitter chat, #HealthXPh has been doing regular Hangout On Air (HOA) every Saturday 10:00 AM Philippine standard time (UTC + 8).

Snapshot of an #HealthXPh live HOA

Snapshot of an #HealthXPh live HOA (Photo courtesy of Dr. Narciso Tapia)

It’s an exciting new tool for us and I know everyone at #HealthXPh is eager to join but is repelled by the technical stuff needed to set up an HOA and join #HealthXPh’s convo. The main collaborators at #HealthXP are determined to come up with an easy, less techie “how-to-use-HOA-to-join-#HealthXPh” for our colleagues. Or at least try to, taking cues from our experience hosting a regular HOA convo every saturday.

Let me just differentiate Google+ Hangout and Hangout on Air first, because even if these two “resides” in one and the same app/plugin, each has certain capabilities fit for certain certain online environment and advocacy. Hangouts are just like your regular video chat with your Google+ friends.  You can make hangouts video chat “private” with just a select number of people or group ( called circle in Google Plus) or make it “public” and everyone may ask for permission  join even if they are not in your circles. In a hangout, there’s no “host” or moderator so every participant will self moderate. Hangout is neither broadcast live nor recorded directly to a youtube channel.

Hangout On Air on the other hand, is a hosted/moderated,  invite only video chat broadcast live and recorded directly on the host’s youtube channel. As such it is by default, public since viewers (even those not on the HOA or not on your circles) can view the ongoing HOA. In some Google+/youtube account though and depending on your regional location, you can make an live HOA broadcast private to certain people or circles you allow. These feature I believe hasn’t been rolled out in the Philippines though. In an HOA, the host has control of everyone and almost everything – mute/unmute buttons, hide/unhide videos or the invite or “eject” button.  You can only have ten people in HOA unlike in  hangouts where you can invite as many profiles as you like.

The potential for HOA is obvious. Using minimal hardware requirements, you can have an online video chat broadcast publicly and recorded realtime on a youtube channel. That’s great for documentation! HOA is like having your own TV show broadcast live and recorded directly on youtube online!  In HOA you can hold a mini forum, Q&A panel discussions, a lecture presentation and so many other things limited only by your audio-visual “hardware”.  It’s reach? Youtube is now third to Facebook and Google+ as the top social networks globally. That is a huge potential for healthcare advocacy reach too! To some however, the weakness of HOA for health is it’s main strength. HOA’s default public broadcast make some healthcare professionals uneasy. Some issues in healthcare are sometimes too controversial to be discussed out in public but that in itself is also subject to debates on healthcare ‘transparency”.

#HealthXPh chose Google Hangout on Air as another major platform (the other is twitter)  for our online conversations. We felt HOA may somehow bridge the geographic scatter of healthcare professionals on archipelagic Philippines. A HOA is bit more difficult to set up compared to other online video chat tools (e.g. skype) I’ve known but once you get the plugin running, you will appreciate the robust apps (like the screen share, Q&A, cameraman ) that comes with it. The fact that what transpired in an HOA is broadcast live and directly recorded on youtube makes it even more appealing for emerging technology in healthcare advocates like #HealthXPh.