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Google to respond to health queries with treatment information

Addition of Knowledge Graph considerably ups theante for 'Doctor Google'

Google mobile health search 

Google is preparing to provide treatment and symptom information directly into its health search results pages.

The internet giant says one in 20 of the search queries it handles are for health-related information and it plans to respond to this by harnessing its 'Knowledge Graph'.

Launched in 2012 the Graph provides 'semantic-search' information alongside relevant links to other sites, though the addition of this extra information can make navigating away from Google unnecessary.

Google product manager Prem Ramaswami said: “We worked with a team of medical doctors … to carefully compile, curate, and review this information. 

“All of the gathered facts represent real-life clinical knowledge from these doctors and high-quality medical sources across the web, and the information has been checked by medical doctors at Google and the Mayo Clinic for accuracy.”

Nevertheless, the company cautioned that the addition to a service often referred to as 'Dr Google' of extra health information “doesn't mean these search results are intended as medical advice”.

However, Ramaswami said: “We hope this can empower you in your health decisions by helping you learn more about common conditions,”.

The changes will start to be rolled out over the next few days, initially in the US and in English, with Google's future plans extending to “many more medical conditions” as well as other parts of the world.

Boost to Google's mobile offering

Although not explicitly positioned as a mobile offering, there should be now doubt that forms a key part of how Google expects the service to be used.

Its visual explanation of the service (see above) show a mobile being used for to search for information on tonsillitis and Ramaswami said: “So the next time you need info on frostbite symptoms, or treatments for tennis elbow, or the basics on measles, the Google app will be a better place to start.“

One in 20 Google searches is currently for health-related information and last year Ebola edged out flu and pregnancy to top Google's list of most searched for symptoms in the US.

Coming up behind were health searches for Asperger's, ALS, Lupus and then diabetes, with Lyme disease, typhus and respiratory symptoms rounding out the top ten searches in 2014.

Meanwhile the top medication searches were led by requests for information about pain medications, with Pfizer's Advil (ibuprofen) and J&J's Tylenol (acetaminophen) top the chart.

The new expansion of its approach to search is just the latest health move from the company, which in the last 12 months has also seen Google test doctor consultations by video, agree a tie-up with Novartis for its 'smart lens' technology and forge a research alliance via its R&D company Calico with AbbVie.

11th February 2015

From: Marketing, Healthcare

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