- Consumers using Google to search for medical information will start seeing an addition to their usual results over the next few days: A knowledge graph that will display medically-correct and certified information vetted by doctors who work for Google and the Mayo Clinic, according to a blog post on Google's site.
- "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," wrote product manager Prem Ramaswami in the blog. "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."
- In the comments section of the post, Ramaswami revealed that Google has even employed certified medical artists to illustrate pictures accurately depicting the nature of some injuries and medical conditions that will be used in the knowledge graph. Moreover, the company plans to extend the reach of this service globally, creating stronger, more useful content as the program progresses.
The key element of this advance was when someone realized that the patient triage process doesn't begin at the hospital or the provider's office. It begins when a patient or parent searches Google for medical information related to a current illness.
In the blog, Ramaswami stated that one in 20 Google searches are for medical information. To put some added punctuation on that statement, the Pew Research Center has determined that roughly 77% of all consumers looking for health-related information start with a search engine.
By recognizing that patient care begins when the patient starts checking online for what might be wrong with them, Google has taken a step toward improving the process. It has figured out a way to ensure that the first information that a patient sees is accurate, comprehensive and empowers them with the best education possible before they seek medical help.
It will be interesting to see how physicians, traditionally leery of patient use of online resources like WebMD, react to patient use of a doc-edited resource. Moreover, will Google knock Wikipedia off its pedestal as the top resource for online health information for docs? Fifty percent of physicians currently turn to the site as a "starting point for their online self education."