This week, Google announced plans to make those searches your patients are doing for health information more reliable by delivering information curated by its own physicians and others from the Mayo Clinic.
According to Google, one in twenty searches it gets are for health information. Now when someone searches for a common diagnosis, they’ll get information that’s been reviewed by health care professionals on the results page in the Knowledge Graph. That’s the part of the screen, separated from the results & links, that has information on your search topic.
Information will include symptoms, treatments, information on who is affected, whether it’s contagious, and more – all reviewed by healthcare professionals. As described by Google,
So starting in the next few days, when you ask Google about common health conditions, you’ll start getting relevant medical facts right up front from the Knowledge Graph. We’ll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is—whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more. For some conditions you’ll also see high-quality illustrations from licensed medical illustrators. Once you get this basic info from Google, you should find it easier to do more research on other sites around the web, or know what questions to ask your doctor.
Google’s internal team is led by Dr. Kapil Parakh, a heart failure cardiologist who previously practiced at Johns Hopkins and went on to become a White House fellow before joining Google. They also worked with healthcare professionals from the Mayo Clinic, whose sites often pop up as the first or second result when you search for any number of specific health conditions.
It’s unclear what breadth of health conditions will be covered and in what depth. And with all of the news articles about this starting with “Dr. Google,” you’d think Google’s new search function will be diagnosing most common conditions. But by the examples offered, it seems that searches would have to be for actual health terms – measles, tonsillitis, frostbite, and so on. For patients experiencing any of these things (without a diagnosis yet), I’d guess the searches would be more vague – sore throat, red rash, or blue foot.
On the other hand, for folks who see the news about the measles or hear a friend has been diagnosed with pink eye, they’d probably use specific enough terms to see this curated health information. And for patients who may not have understood everything their doctor told them about their child’s tonsillitis or how bursitis is causing their pain, this information could be a great starting point to learn more from a reliable source.
We’ve all had the experience of patient’s walking into clinic armed with information gleaned from Googling their condition. Hopefully, this new health-specific search will mean they show up with more information from the Mayo Clinic and less from Dr. Oz.