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Is Google Joining the World of Telemedicine?

Video chats offer patients quick access to medical professionals who can offer advice on health illnesses.

Google is testing a new search feature that allows users to video call a doctor directly based on search results for illnesses or symptoms.

First revealed on the social network Reddit, a user posted a screenshot of the service after he had run a search for “knee pain.” A video icon with the headline “Talk with a doctor now” appeared before the search results.

Upon clicking the “more information” icon, Google displayed this message: “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.”

The service was later confirmed to Engadget that it was testing a Helpouts-style feature.

In a statement released to Gizmodo, Google explained that “When you’re searching for basic health information – from conditions like insomnia or food poisoning – our goal is to provide you with the most helpful information available. We’re trying this new feature to see if it’s useful to people.”

Google Helpouts became compliant with the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which governs patient data confidentiality, and offered video chats with doctors for those with health insurance from One Medical Group last year.

The move to a trail within standard search results shows Google’s continued push towards the medical industry, which has both financial and personal interest from the company’s founders.  

According to The Guardian, the health care industry is a potentially lucrative market, worth 10 percent of the economy of developed nations. The U.S. health care industry is valued at $3 trillion, according to the Department for Health.

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