The Google doctor will see you now: Search giant trials online medical consultations

The next time you research symptoms for an ailment online, Google may recommend you see a doctor.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Google is trialling service that connects the dots between searching for ailments online and actually seeing a doctor.

Searching the internet can deliver a wealth information on just about any medical condition or ailment, but one thing it can't do is provide a professional diagnosis and therefore what medical advice a person should follow to remedy an issue.

Google is attempting to fill that gap with a new service its trialling in the US that, based on a users' query, may suggest connecting a person to a doctor via Hangouts session in the browser.

The service was discovered on the weekend by a user on Reddit who posted a screenshot of a search for "knee pain", which returned a suggestion "Talk with a doctor now".

Based on the user's search query, Google guesses they were trying to understand a medical condition and pointed the user to health care providers they could visit over a video chat. Google said it was covering all costs during its limited trial.

In a statement to ZDNet, Google confirmed it was testing out the feature.

"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," it said.

While some users in the US may notice the new option popping up on certain search results, users elsewhere shouldn't expect to see it any time soon, given that for now it is only a temporary trial and is an extension of the Google’s Helpouts.

Google launched its Helpouts marketplace last year, offering a platform for services providers to charge fees for anyone interested in connecting with them. Among the categories of services are art and music, cooking, fitness and nutrition and health.

Google did offer health services in some states in the US last year with One Medical Group, however the site currently does not list any providers under health.

Understandably, becoming a health provider on Helpouts is more difficult than than other services — for example, Google needed to verify the provider’s certificate or license, including that they’re a covered entity under the US health data regulation HIPAA. The health service was also only available in the US.

But given that people often do search symptoms for ailments it may be better placed in search rather than as a category in Helpouts. 

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