The Internet has enabled people to self-diagnose ailments online, eschewing the traditional visit to the doctor’s surgery in favor of a quick Google search. However convenient this may seem at the time, it can in fact do more harm than good, convincing anxious patients that they have illnesses that a qualified doctor would be able to quickly discount from his diagnosis.
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) hopes to reduce the anxiety levels of fans of self-diagnosis, testing a video chat feature that would connect patients with doctors when they search for medical information.
Google Doctor spotted
A Reddit user who searched for “knee pain” on Google was the first person to discover the service, noticing that results included a blue “Talk with a doctor now” prompt with accompanying video icon. Google confirmed to Engadget that the feature they are testing is similar to the existing Helpouts service, which would enable users who search for symptoms to contact doctors over video chat.
“Based on your search query, we think you are trying to understand a medical condition,” read the advice box. ”Here you can find health care providers who you can visit with over video chat.”
The trial is limited to California and Massachusetts, where all video calls made to doctors during the trial period will be covered by Google, and therefore free to users.
An extension to Helpouts
In a statement released to Gizmodo, the company said, “When you’re searching for basic health information — from conditions like insomnia or food poisoning — our goal is provide you with the most helpful information available. We’re trying this new feature to see if it’s useful to people.”
The Helpouts feature was launched in November 2013, designed as a marketplace where “experts,” such as doctors, teachers, chefs and musicians, could be contacted by users who wanted specific questions answered. As it stands Google boasts partnerships with Weight Watchers and One Medical, and prices for video sessions range from $0-20 per hour.