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Google Testing New Telemedicine Service

Suffering from insomnia? Food poisoning? Google wants to help.

Palto / Shutterstock

Google is tiptoeing into the increasingly popular telemedicine space.

The online search giant is indeed running a trial within its Helpouts service offering users a chance to discuss medical issues with live doctors via online video, as Engadget first reported.

“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,” a company spokesperson said in an email to Re/code. “We’re trying this new feature to see if it’s useful to people.”

Google’s Helpouts service already offers live video guidance from experts on topics like parenting, photography, fitness and more.

A truckload of venture capital has backed up into the telemedicine space in recent months, as a series of startups like American Well, Better, Doctor on Demand, HealthTap, Spruce and others explore new ways of allowing people to consult doctors via mobile apps. Some charge by the visit, others seek a monthly fee.

There are some clear advantages to getting counseling on demand and within the comfort of one’s home, particularly for simpler medical issues. But there are limits to what doctors can do when they’re unable to diagnose a patient in person — including restrictions on tests and prescription drugs.

It’s unclear what level of service physicians participating in Google’s program are providing, what sort of business model undergirds it and how Google will deal with any medical liability issues that could arise.

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