Google, Mayo Clinic team up to improve health info on the web

About one in 20 Google searches is for health-related terms

Google last week announced that it is working with the Mayo Clinic to display accurate results for health-related queries in a new way.

According to Google, about one in 20 Google searches is for a health-related term.

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In a blog post, Google Product Manager Prem Ramaswami said that over the next few days Google will leverage its Knowledge Graph—a Google function that creates a "smarter" search by combining the companies search algorithm with internal and publicly available datasets—to display relevant health information in a box at the top of a user's search results page. 

The information will be pulled from trusted medical websites and has been vetted by a team of doctors at Google and another team at the Mayo Clinic. An average of about 11 physicians will have inspected the information.

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The display box will include information on:

  • How common the condition is;
  • Symptoms; and
  • Treatments.

In addition, some results for health-related queries will include images from medical illustrators.

For example, a search for rabies will display a drawing of a raccoon next to an arm with a bite, along with comments such as "Very rare" and "Medically treatable by a doctor or professional."

According to USA Today, Google has already revised search results for about 400 of the most-common medical conditions.

The new search function currently is only available in the U.S. It will be accessible on Google's standard website and mobile application.

Ramaswami cautioned that the search results are not intended to serve as medical advice but are intended to provide individuals with reliable, relevant information so it is "easier to do more research on other sites around the Web, or know what questions to ask your doctor" (Verel, MedCity News, 2/10; Comstock, MobiHealthNews, 2/10; della Cava, USA Today, 2/10).

The takeaway: About 5% of searches on Google are for health-related terms. To make sure the data provided is as accurate as possible, the internet giant is partnering with Mayo Clinic to display relevant health information in a box at the top of a user's search results page.



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