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Google tests doctor consultations via video

Uses Google Hangouts to facilitate healthcare discussions
google hangouts

Google Hangouts allows people to have live video conversations online

Google is testing a new tool that allows people using its search engine to engage in a live video chat with a doctor to discuss potential health problems.

The tech giant confirmed last month that it is trialling a service whereby if a person searches for an illness or symptom a prompt pops up that allows the use to speak to a healthcare professional via its Google Hangouts service, rather than rely on search results.

The prompt first gained attention after it was noticed by web developer Jason Houle who posted a screenshot to Imgur. This was picked up by several tech blogs who covered the story.

Upon searching for 'knee pain' he received the following message on his screen next to a link to talk with a doctor: “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.”

It appears that Google may eventually try and turn this tool into a paid-for service as the prompt concludes: “All visit costs are covered by Google during this limited trial.”

google video consultation 

The screenshot posted by Jason Houle to Imgur

The move is the latest in a series of moves into healthcare by Google with other recent ventures including the development of 'smart' contact lenses to measure glucose levels, the use of Google Glass in Parkinson's disease and the launch of health research firm Calico.

With its latest effort Google is tapping into a growing demand for telehealth and telecare systems across the world.

Research from Berg Insight demonstrated that around 4.7 million people in Europe had used some kind of connected care system by the end of 2013.

Berg predicts this number will rise significantly over the next few years projecting a compound annual growth rate of 19.2% for the next five years so that 13.7 million people in Europe will make use of a connected system by the end of 2018.

The financial prospects for connected care companies are also expected to grow, with Berg projecting that global revenues for remote patient monitoring will rise from $5.8bn in 2013 to $26.4bn by 2018.

10th November 2014

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