Google will make changes to its search results on the search engine and Google Maps to show virtual healthcare options more prominently, in an effort to make it easier for people to connect to virtual healthcare options, the company said in a statement. The changes will start rolling out this week. The company said that ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has seen interest in virtual care and telehealth “rise dramatically“.
The new updates: Google will allow healthcare providers, such as hospitals, doctors, and mental health professionals to enter a virtual care offering in their Business Profile, and that link will appear in both search results and Google Maps. In case health care providers have a dedicated COVID-19 webpage, Google said it’ll automatically surface a link to that, in both the search results and Maps.
What this essentially means is that if, for instance, a hospital offers virtual care to patients and updates the same on their business profile, Google will show an option called “get online care” in search results for that particular hospital. Similarly, if a hospital has a dedicated website for COVID-19, that will be visible in the search results itself. However, at the time of publication, we could not see these changes when we tried searching for some hospitals in India, including AIIMS Delhi, Medanata Hospital, and Fortis Hospital.
We don’t know if Google business profiles of all healthcare professionals are verified, and a report by the Wall Street Journal last year had found out that hundreds of thousands of fake listings appear on Google Maps every month. It isn’t clear how Google will deal with unverified business profiles of healthcare professionals in this case. We have asked them about it and will update the article with their response.
Google will start showing more virtual care platforms in the US: Google will also start showing virtual care platforms directly in search results, in a separate card called “online care”. Google explained that when people search for “immediate care”, it’ll be able to present available virtual care options and related information such as the out-of-pocket price charged for a visit (for those without insurance) and an “easy way” for people to directly connect with the virtual care platform. This particular feature will first roll out as a pilot in the US, Google said.
Google is already showing locations of food and night shelters across 30 Indian cities. It is also joining forces with Apple to develop an interoperable contact-tracing system based on Bluetooth technology to track the spread of the coronavirus.