Great news WebMD graduates, you now have another tool in your quest to turn that sprained ankle into a heart attack. Make sure your life insurance is current, because new Google Helpouts will allow you to talk with an expert – we are assuming they are a doctor – for a nominal fee.
This could actually be a good thing. Especially considering you could actually talk to a doctor longer than an actual visit to an urgent care facility. The Google Helpout is the new riff off the Hangout feature. It allows for experts to charge for their time. Initial helpouts geared around topics like fitness and cooking. Yeah, you could literally have a chef walk you through the process of boiling water.
An image posted to reddit showed a search for knee pain with the option to consult an expert. I’ve tried recreating the result, but it looks like a test for Google. The image capture shows that Google will cover the costs of consulting an expert during the trial run.
If it goes mainstream, it could be the first step towards true telemedicine. Who really wants to go to the doctor if you don’t have to. Who knows what other illness you are stacking on top of the fact you have a bad back.
A spokesperson released a statement to Gizmodo about the search results. “When you’re searching for basic health information … 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.”
There are already a couple of apps in the telemedicine vertical. Spruce and Better already offer up services for a price, and probably aren’t looking forward to Google jumping into their vertical. Better acts as a health assistant – allowing you to check symptoms, an online health record storage center and a nurse line to the Mayo Clinic. All for around $20 per month.
Spruce lets you talk to a board-certified dermatologist to secure acne treatment plans in under 24 hours. The price? $40 per visit.
Will Google’s test make it to the mainstream? It’s hard to see it not becoming a part of the search results. It’s probably the easiest revenue stream for Google ever thought up. We all have a little hypochondriac in us.
The company will be watching usage statistics during the trial, so expect a lot of A/B testing on how this appears in the search results.