google introduces a new search feature that would help patients see available appointments with healthcare providers. It was announcement last Thursday by Google at Google Health’s second annual Check Up event.
People who need health-related information usually use Google search. As such, the tech company says it aims to ensure users can access high-quality information when they need it. Checking appointment availability is one of the new search features, which aims to help people make informed decisions about their health.
During the event, Hema Budaraju, Senior Director of Social Impact of Products, Health and Search at Google, presented the new feature that allows patients to see the types of appointments available and the first appointments still open for booking. When the user clicks on the available appointment, they are directed to the firm’s website to complete the appointment booking. Meanwhile, vendors could use scheduling tools like Kyruss and Stericycle Communications Solutions to add their availability to their Business Profiles in Google. This is free.
At this early stage of the feature launch, users will see appointments at MinuteClinics on CVS, along with other appointment schedulers. As Budaraju said at Thursday’s event, Google is starting with a few early partners. Also, it will only be available in English at this point. Eventually, the company aims to expand not only its partner network, but also its features and functionality.
This added functionality is part of the search features that Google announced in December, aimed at improving access to health information. These tags added to business profiles in Google so that some of the most important information patients would need to know was provided. These include the languages used by the provider and the insurance networks it accepts.
Google also announced other health initiatives. These include several research projects that would help detect diseases by leveraging artificial intelligence tools.
Google aims to develop tools that would identify potential disease using external images of an eye taken using a smartphone camera. This initiative builds on a previous company health program, which screens for diseases such as diabetic retinopathy by analyzing clinical captures of the inside of the eyes.
In addition, it also explores the recording potential of patient’s heart rate via a built-in microphone smart phones. The initial objective of the study is to design algorithms for detecting patients’ heartbeats and murmurs. Ultimately, however, the goal is to apply this to recognize which patients are at risk for heart valve disorders. The company has also partnered with Northwestern Medicine to improve maternal health outcomes using AI tools.