People using Google to search for information about various medical symptoms may soon get another source of information, a real-time chat with medical experts.
The search giant’s pilot program offers users a more direct path to medical insight by offering video chats with doctors to people whose search terms involve medical symptoms.
Google's new medical component is powered by Google Helpouts, its video chat collaboration service launched late last year that puts people in touch with a range of experts through online video. The search engine company is trying to gauge how useful users find the new Helpouts links in their health-related searches, a Google spokesperson 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," the spokesperson said. "We're trying this new feature to see if it's useful to people."
With Google Helpouts, users can search out for experts based on their availability, qualifications and ratings. Currently the "Talk with a Doctor" link is being offered to only a small number of users and is free as part of Google's Helpouts live video chat advice service. But it's possible that it would be a paid feature via Google Wallet if it is rolled out to the public at large.
Google’s new trial 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.
Besides the convenience of video chats, Google is reportedly availing the service's HIPAA compliance that gives its health care venture legs. The video chat service is being tested only in Massachusetts and California. Google did not specify how long the trial is expected to run or what kind of information is being collected during the trial run.
Google's another health projects, Google Fit is set to compete with the likes Apple's HealthKit with the arrival of Android L. The two health platforms are positioned along party lines, featuring design decisions that speak of their respective developers.
While Google Fit just seeks to create an open environment where health peripherals can all interface with one another, Apple's HealthKit platform looks to bring all of the health information gathered from a user's smartphone and accessories into a single and secure location.