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Google to expand its health information role

Will add at-a-glance details on hundredsmore health conditions

Google health information search

Google is set to expand the health applications of its 'knowledge graph' by providing at-a-glance details on hundreds more conditions.

For a company whose health focus has been increasingly associated with tangible technology of late, it's a sign that it's not ignoring its efforts in health information.

The search giant first started providing treatment and symptom information - applying the 'semantic search' capabilities of its knowledge graph - directly into its health search results pages in February, but will now ramp up its efforts.

The number of conditions included will soon be doubled, with over 900 in total covered by information on areas such as their symptoms, treatments and prevalence.

In addition to this Google will also provide a 'download PDF' link to help patients take the information to their doctor, something - Google said - has been a top request from doctors themselves.

Google product manager Prem Ramaswami wrote in a blog: “Health conditions continue to be among the most important things people ask Google about, and one of our most popular features. 

“As before, we've consulted and worked closely with a team of doctors to curate and validate this information. We've gotten lots of positive, helpful feedback from our users and medical professionals, and we'll keep working to bring useful health information to your fingertips.

The feature is still only provided in US English, but Ramaswami said Google plans to expand it to more languages and regions.

As part of the changes Google will also tweak the way the service works, making visual design improvements and more specific triggering to speed the journey from search to information.

The company made a point of noting that neglected tropic diseases would be included - information on Dengue Fever is already included and Chikungunya and Leishmaniases will join it soon.

The expansion appears to have been prompted by an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in New York early last month, when searches for the disease shot up, and Google quickly updated the health conditions feature to provide information on Legionnaires' right up front, from a simple search.

The move is unlikely to overshadow Google initiatives such as its smart contact lens technology, robotic surgery, diabetes tools, wearable health tracker or robotic pill, but it's a timely reminder of day-to-day utility of 'Dr Google'.

24th September 2015

From: Healthcare

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