Checking up on Dr. Google: How the search giant has tackled health and wellness

By Jonah Comstock

Google Body (2010-2012)

zygote-body-thumbnailsGoogle Body, originally called Google Body Browser, launched at the end of 2010. Google Body was a 3D model of a human body users could peel back, zoom in on, and explore, similarly to how Google Earth allows users to virtually explore the planet. It was launched as part of Google Labs and was retired when the Google Labs program was shuttered in 2011.

However, Google made the software that powered Google Body open source and the company that provided the content for Google Body, Zygote Media Group, resurrected Google Body in late 2011 as Zygote Body, which is still available as a browser and Android app.

Google Helpouts (2013-present)

Just this month, Google launched a platform that builds on its video chat software, Google Hangouts. On Google Helpouts, users can pay for one-on-one video sessions with different kinds of experts, including some health experts. The feature can be accessed online or via an app on Android devices. Google Helpouts currently has both a Fitness and Nutrition category and a Health category. The Fitness and Nutrition section features experts from Weight Watchers and from a number of personal trainers.

For the health section, Google has made sure the platform supports HIPAA compliance and, according to Becker's Hospital Review, is waiving its transaction fee for healthcare services. California, New York, and Massachusetts members of concierge medical practice One Medical Group can currently use the service for free, and California-based TeleCure just joined as well, offering telemedicine consultations to Californians for $25. Other providers under the health category include mental health counselors, lactation coaches, and veterinary services.

Looking ahead: Google Calico and Google Glass

The Google product that could make a big splash in healthcare, of course, is Google Glass, a wearable, voice-controlled computer with a heads up display. Since Glass is currently in beta, its potential impacts in health are all hype, as MobiHealthNews argued in an editorial this summer. Nonetheless, Glass has been used by several surgeons and has at least two health startups focused on it: Augmedix and Pristine.

And of course, Google Calico (which stands for California Life Company) was announced a few months ago with the goal of tackling illness, age, or even death. Details, however, have not been forthcoming.

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