You Can Now Ask Facebook Messenger For Medical Advice

You Can Now Ask Facebook Messenger For Medical Advice

Not sure if it’s a wart or a pimple? Wondering when that cough will finally clear up? You can now use Facebook to help diagnose what ails you.

Earlier this month Facebook Messenger added a new free feature that allows users to send a health message or question to HealthTap, a Palo Alto telemedicine startup, and get an answer.

Users first ask Messenger a question connected to a health concern. They can then choose to get a response by looking at similar questions in HealthTap’s online database, or to wait a while for an answer from one of 100,000 physicians in HealthTap’s network.

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The service usually responds within about 24 hours.

It all sounds like a great way to ease the minds of those with health worries. What seems best about the new feature is the convenience factor for Facebook users.

As HealthTap CEO Ron Gutman told BuzzFeed News, “You don’t need to open (another) app or go to a website. It’s like having a discussion with your mom. You ask a question to a doctor and get an answer back.”

The feature can’t diagnose that new mole as cancerous but it can help out in other areas. Buzzfeed News states questions that work well with Messenger included things like “Can I drink alcohol while taking ibuprofen?” and “Is it OK to eat ___ if I’m diabetic?”

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It’s similar to Canada’s Telehealth, a service that allows Canadians to call up a hotline and have a registered nurse answer questions about health conditions, on the phone.

Users report that, often times, these nurses back away from any liability as it’s tricky to really know what’s going on with someone remotely, and patients are told to visit the nearest medical clinic or emergency room to have their problem checked out.

What the Canadian nurses on-hand are great at offering is guidance for things like dressing a minor burn from a kitchen accident, giving advice on bringing a fever down, and advising on what medications are safe to take if you have the chicken pox.

So, not everything you need. But if you find yourself out in the Arctic, home on the range or simply not feeling up to leaving home for a visit to the doctor, Facebook’s service could be helpful.

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Experts say the majority of questions can be handled by the 4 billion existing medical answers in HealthTap’s library. They’ve been checked by doctors for accuracy and will be searched using an artificial intelligence-powered bot that will automatically send you an answer, if you choose.

And if it’s something more serious, you can always tap into HealthTap’s premium service, which is available off of Facebook, in which you can video chat with doctors for $99 a month, a reminder that nothing worth its weight comes for free.

This premium service can explain in more detail what seems to be wrong, and provide a referral to see a specialist if needed.

Still feel like you want someone educated to look down your throat with that stick thingy and beam into your eyes with that special light?

I know what you mean. For tricky conditions of course we recommend using RateMDs ratings to find the best actual doctor out there, near you!

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