WebMD's Symptom Checker has turned many a web user into a hypochondriac, but Google wants to stop that and also offer users a more direct path to medical insight. The search company is integrating links in search results in a pilot program that would connect users with medical experts via video chat.
Google's new medical component is said to be a part of Google's Helpouts service. A Google spokesperson said the search engine company is attempting to gauge how useful people find the new Helpouts links in their health-related searches. Helpouts is Google's video chat collaboration service that the company says "connects people who need help with people who can give help over live video."
"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," the spokesperson said. "We're trying this new feature to see if it's useful to people."
Google Helpouts users can search out experts by parameters such as availability, qualifications and ratings. Some consultations are free, while other require payment via Google Wallet.
While web users can search out health advice and consult with medical professionals through Helpouts, Google is lifting the price from consultations that are directed to experts via links embedded in the search engine.
The new "Talk with a Doctor" link isn't available to everyone, as the feature is still in its trial phase. The new link was discovered when a redditor was searching "knee pain" on an Android device.
"Based on your search query, we think you are trying to understand a medical condition. Here you can find health care providers who you can visit with over video chat. All visit costs are covered by Google during this limited trial," stated the blue link that appeared at the top of the redditor's search results.
An element that gives Google's health care venture legs, besides the convenience of video chats, is the service's HIPAA compliance, which the company is said to have established back when it worked with the One Medical Network to deliver medical consultations over Helpouts.
Google Fit is another of Google's health projects, set to compete with Apple's HealthKit with the arrival of Android L. The differences between the two health platforms are aligned along party lines, featuring design decisions that speak to the philosophies of their respective developers.
Apple's HealthKit platform seeks to bring all of the health data collected from a user's smartphone and accessories into a singular, secure location, while Google Fit merely seeks to create an open environment where health peripherals can all interface with one another.