By Christine Kern, contributing writer
When you ask Google about common health conditions, you’ll start getting relevant medical facts right up front from the Knowledge Graph.
Google and the Mayo Clinic are partnering to improve the types of information available to individuals who use the Google search app to engage in online searches for information about common health conditions. Knowledge Graph will display typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details regarding how common the searched condition is, according to the Google blog. Some conditions also include medical-quality illustrations.
The idea is to provide basic, accurate medical information that can empower individuals in their healthcare decision by helping them learn more about common conditions. The project helps to further the Mayo Clinic’s strategic goals as well. Mayo’s CEO, Dr. John Noseworthy told the Duluth News Tribune in 2011 that one of Mayo’s goals was to achieve “a meaningful interaction with 200 million patients and people each year” by 2020.
Google does offer a caveat, however, stating “That doesn’t mean these search results are intended as medical advice. What we present is intended for informational purposes only – and you should always consult a healthcare professional if you have a medical concern.”
In essence, Google is simply standardizing a function it's been offering for years via third-party sources. But with more and more tech companies interested in handling medical data, it's hard not to see this announcement as part of a long-term plan as well. Currently, medical information that is found on Google tends to be seen as unverified and scaremongering, so adding the fact-checking to the healthcare data will help Google build its medical credentials.
“Good information is good medicine,” Dr. Phil Hagen, Mayo’s medical director for Healthy Living, Global Business Solutions, said in a press release. “We took a special interest in Google’s technology for providing quick, reliable, useful information.
“As an editor and physician, I know how difficult it is to present concise, useful information. I think these should be viewed as the first stop for those needing health information, and as people need more information, they can quickly connect to a medical website like MayoClinic.org.”
Google has a vast audience for the new service. As The Verge writes, “Internet-assisted hypochondriacs have been around for years now, and the company says that one in 20 Google searches are health-related.”
To create the program, Google worked with a team of medical doctors led by Dr. Kapril Parkh, M.D., MPH Ph.D., to compile a database of real-life clinical knowledge and information, and then medical doctors at Google and the Mayo Clinic reviewed the data for accuracy.