Google seems to be getting smarter all the time. It’s already a sort of virtual encyclopedia. Now, for at least some users, it’s behaving like a wise, caring parent that will not only tell you to see a doctor but will actually make it happen.
Developer Jason Houle noticed an interesting feature when he googled “knee pain” on an Android device recently: Google was offering him to “talk with a doctor now” through a video chat. He posted a screenshot to Reddit on Friday, and Engadget confirmed yesterday that Google was indeed testing the feature.
The extraordinary aspect of the feature is that it suggests Google does actually harbor major ambitions for its expert-chatting feature, Helpouts, specifically in the domain of health care.
Sure, Helpouts could help people learn how to apply red lipstick or prepare a turkey dinner.
But the service is far more capable than that. It’s HIPAA-compliant, ensuring doctors won’t need to worry about the security of patient information, as VentureBeat reported last year. Back then, people who paid for health care through the One Medical network were able to talk with doctors affiliated with the network over a Helpout. If Google has incorporated the feature into some people’s search results, that would suggest Google has brought more doctors aboard for the initiative.
Meanwhile, startups focused on telemedicine like Teladoc and Doctor on Demand have been pulling in funding in recent months. But, Google being a web service people already use all over the world, the company could be quicker to make telemedicine a common practice and potentially a money-making one at that.