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Video chat your doctor with Google

Nimasha Fernando

Staff Writer

Google is introducing a new way for patients to receive medical information on the internet from actual physicians through video chat.

 In a fraction of a second, the Google search engine will present users with a plethora of information about their inputted query.

A new Google feature may now be expanding the company’s domain into the healthcare spectrum, as trials of a physician video chat option are in testing.

With their novel initiative, Google aims to identify when users are specifically searching medical symptoms. In addition to other sites, the search engine also aspires to present users with the option to video chat with an actual physician regarding their concerns.

“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,” said Google in an e-mail comment to NBC News.

While the program is in the trial phase, Google will be paying for all ‘doctor’s visits’ generated with the program. Once the actual application becomes active, users opting to video chat with a physician will be billed, according to Doug Gross, a CNN technology writer.

“You’ll likely have to pay for virtual appointments if and when the service is ever ready for prime time, then. That’s not ideal, but it could be much cheaper than seeing a physician in person,” writes Jon Fings, technology reviewer for Engadget.

Although Google’s innovative objective may make it more convenient for individuals to receive medical information, many critics worry about the quality of these medical recommendations as the physician cannot examine a patient in person.

Cassandra (Sandy) Riggs, Assistant Director of Clinical Services for UMBC’s University Health Services and a registered nurse, also indicates that online medical information must be carefully interpreted.

“While it [online medical suggestion sites] serves a purpose I have had many incidents where students have come in panicked over what they think they may have and the power of suggestion has overtaken what the student is actually experiencing,” says Riggs in an e-mail comment.

“At other times [a medical suggestion site] has prepared the student for what they think they have and when I confirm their fears they are more prepared and ask well thought out follow up questions” said Riggs.

For UMBC students, UHS maintains a website containing links to reputable online medical fact resources, information about UHS appointment scheduling, and further trustworthy material on current health topics including the Ebola virus. UHS also provides information through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.

For students enlisting the web to amass medical information, Riggs recommends the following sites which she also utilizes to acquire reliable information: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mayo Clinic and the American Social Health Association websites.

“Overall, I think it is safe for students to consult the [online medical suggestion] resources as a first line resource but to keep in mind that there are many worst case scenarios on the site that are fairly rare” says Riggs in regards to sites such as WebMD.

Whether gleaning information through Google’s physician video chat program or viewing reputable sites, Riggs comments with a line of final advice: “Self-diagnosis is rarely a good thing, even for healthcare providers.”