If you’re one of millions of people who has done a Google search of your symptoms to try to figure out why you’re not feeling well, Google now hopes to be more helpful in getting you an answer. In an attempt to benefit from the extensive searches being done to self diagnose, Google is testing a new program that allows you to video chat with a physician and supposedly receive better information. It is widely claimed that researching symptoms on the web, frequently leads to misdiagnosis. If the false diagnosis is a serious condition, it can elicit unfounded anxiety, a condition that’s been termed “cyberchondria.”
At the present time, only individuals in Massachusetts and California have access to this trial service where Google will pick up the tab for the chat. To help in the launch, Google has teamed up with licensed physicians from Scripps Medical and One Medical. Though similar services exist, Google believes it’s got an edge by allowing the physician to view the individual. If they’re correct, its official launch will likely impact this field.
Although several headwinds to this platform may be cited, my main concern relates to tremendous reliance on sophisticated technology in current medical practice. It’s common today for a physician, despite being fully aware of the medical history and the patient standing before them, to request a series of laboratory tests and/or radio-graphic imaging before proposing a diagnosis.
With this practice playing a part in Google platform’s, aside from the straight forward case, the best a clinician could provide is a list of several possible diagnoses. Will individuals be inclined to open their Google Wallet for a list of conditions? Time will tell.
The way the Google platform now works is fairly straight forward. When doing a search of symptoms, a pop-up icon appears with the message:“Based upon your search query, we think you are trying to understand a medical condition. Here you can find healthcare providers who you can visit with over video chat. All visit costs are covered by Google during this limited trial. Talk with a doctor now.”
Since last year, Google has employed some health video chats in its Google Helpouts platform. Here “providers” schedule a time to teach or offer advise for a predetermined fee. In the US, the health care industry is over $3 trillion in size and in developed economies it regularly makes up 10% of the GNP. If Google is able to succeed with the platform, then even tapping into a fraction of the health care market, could be very beneficial for the company and hopefully patients as well.
Jacob J. Klausner