Google Quietly Debuts Chat-with-a-Doctor Video Feature
Over this past weekend, Google quietly rolled out a new feature giving symptom searchers the option to chat live with healthcare providers (HCPs) via video. The new functionality was launched as part of a Google platform that connects users with experts over live video. The chat-with-a-HCP feature is offered for free within Google search results on a trial basis (see image below), with Google covering all costs during an initial timeframe. The feature is believed to be in a testing phase and is not available to everyone at this time.
image source: http://i.imgur.com/GnXLSfF.pnghttp://i.imgur.com/GnXLSfF.png
The new video chat feature is the latest in Google’s efforts to answer users’ symptom queries. For some time now, Google has been providing basic answers to disease and symptom-related queries right within search engine results pages (SERPs), as we have seen them answer with information from sources such as Wikipedia and NIH.gov (see example below).
As CNN pointed out, “doctors are famously frustrated by patients who search for symptoms online. While there are quality sites out there, such open-ended searches can convince people they're sicker than they really are, and more dubious sites can offer sketchy advice about how to treat the symptoms. For patients, a paid, online visit with a doctor could still be cheaper, and more convenient than an actual visit.”
While Google has the power of ubiquity, they are only the latest in a number of companies offering similar services. In June, Verizon announced its new mobile health platform, Verizon Virtual Visits, which enables users to schedule virtual appointment with doctors using their smartphone, computer, or tablet.
While some pharmaceutical companies have tested chat-with-a-healthcare-professional services for consumers in the past, the examples have been few and far between, as regulations and culpability are unclear.
The Intouch Solutions team is exploring this development and will be watching it carefully to identify implications and opportunities for pharmaceutical companies. For now, the trend is clear: a wide range of traditionally non-healthcare companies are seeking to meet the growing demand for a new generation of on-demand, user-friendly healthcare service.