Google is trying to help you figure out why your leg, arm, or other body part hurts. In some testing markets around the world, Google is trying out a different kind of search response when people look for medical ailments.
The company has told press that its trying to provide people with the most accurate self-diagnosis information possible, but that’s not all. Some Google search results will also include a quick call button that users can click to find a doctor.
Paging Dr. Google
Google has started a new thing called “Helpouts,” which aims to help Googlers find more information quickly. Helpouts includes things like connecting users with a doctor through a help hotline of sorts. The way that the medical searches would work go something like this: you have a medical problem, you Google that problem, and you see a link to “talk with a doctor now.”
Through the live Helpouts video chat hotline, you can instantly reach out and connect with a doctor, show that person your ailment, and get a better idea of what the problem is (and how to fix it).
A Trial Period
Right now, it doesn’t cost anything to use the Google Helpouts when looking for some information from a doctor. But, that might change as Google moves out of the trial phase and makes the Helpout option permanent (you may have to pay to connect with a doctor via video chat in the near future).
Google isn’t the only company offering people a quick way to connect with a doctor via the Internet (there are other apps that do the same thing), but I’m bettering Google’s service will be less expensive than most once the company works out the kinks.
Some Possible Problems
It stands to reason that Google will charge doctors to participate in the Helpouts program as well, and it’s also possible that some doctors will want a larger payment than others (possibly depending on specialty). The other issue here is that Google has to have a set of guidelines in place to determine which doctors are really experts, and which ones aren’t. Sure, a general doctor can diagnose a plastic surgery job gone wrong, but you should really be talking to a surgeon, right?
It’s also not clear how doctors will prescribe medications and other follow-up visits (and other details) via the Internet, but these are all things that Google will (presumably) work out sooner rather than later, since the program is set to roll out sometime within the near future. It’s unclear right now whether Google will develop the doctor Helpouts into a complete app or program or whether the company is just trying to help people that attempt to figure out medical ailments via the Internet.
Where it Works Now
If you Google a medical question, you should see right away whether or not you can connect directly to a doctor. It seems like the new helpline is only available in the U.S. right now, too, so you probably can’t use this new search service if you live in another country.