Google Offering Doctor Video Chats To Symptom Searchers


It’s no secret plenty of us with health concerns check symptoms by typing them into Google long before we go to see the doctor. Now Google may remove that time gap altogether.

The company has confirmed it is testing a feature that will offer to connect people searching for health related terms to speak to a doctor via video chat. During the test phase at least, Google will pay the doctor fees.

The program uses the Helpouts feature that offers video chats with experts in their field offering advice. Google has already used Helpouts for medical advice for patients in the One Medical network. That set-up is said to be compliant with HIPAA, the US law that covers data privacy for healthcare patients.

The big difference with the new tests is that Google is pro-actively offering the service to people carrying out relevant searches (regardless of their health cover status), rather than waiting for patients to directly request the video chat. The testing came to light when developer Jason Houle searched for “knee pain” and was offered the video chat.

Google hasn’t yet confirmed what fees will apply once the service launches in full. There’s also no word on whether it will be available as part of health insurance plans with specific providers.

Another question yet to be answered is whether the service will be available to users outside the US (and what if any restrictions or legal consequences that would entail.)

The service could prompt an ethical debate as well. Google will have to be very careful which search terms it chooses for prompting the video chat offer to avoid accusations of scaremongering.

(Screenshot credit: Jason Houle)

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