Internet users looking for medical advice may have better luck than they used to, thanks to a new initiative by Google. The company is currently testing a service with a limited number of users by connecting people who conduct health-related searches with doctors via video chat.
After Reddit user Jason Houle, of Springfield, Mass., uploaded a screenshot of the service online, Google confirmed its authenticity to Engadget. The screenshot shows a search for “knee pain” and gives the user the option of finding “health care providers who you can visit with over video chat.”
The service’s costs are currently covered by Google “during this limited trial.”
In a statement on Gizmodo, Google explained that “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.”
The service is tied in, according to some sources, with Helpouts, a marketplace where “experts” charge to give lessons and advice over video chat.
Companies, including doctor’s offices, are looking for more digital solutions to compete in the marketplace. This year, advertisers are expected to spend $135 billion on digital marketing solutions, often through platforms like Google.
The wording in the screenshot has led some to speculate whether Google will charge money in the future. Similar services, such as weight-loss consultations, go for about $30 per session on the web already; full-scale medical consultations could charge much higher amounts.
The service comes at a time when the health care industry is worth approximately $3 trillion in the United States, according to an article from The Guardian.
No other details for the program have been released so far, such as the requirements for participating medical professionals in order to verify their qualifications. Google currently warns search users to “consult a doctor if you have a medical concern.”