Google Bringing Health Data to Search

Hypochondriacs of the world, rejoice: Google has decided to integrate fact-checked medical data into the first page of its search results.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 11.25.48 AMPerhaps the introduction of medical facts was inevitable, considering one in every 20 searches on Google is health-related. “Starting in the next few days, when you ask Google about common health conditions, you’ll start getting relevant medical facts right up front from the Knowledge Graph,” read a Feb. 10 posting on Google’s official blog. “We’ll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is—whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more.”

That medical data will also feature illustrations from “licensed medical illustrators,” the posting added. A team of medical doctors compiled and reviewed the information that will appear at the top of searches, but that doesn’t mean the facts should be treated as a replacement for an actual flesh-and-blood physician.

“We know that cases can vary in severity from person to person, and that there are bound to be exceptions,” the blog added. “What we present is intended for informational purposes only—and you should always consult a healthcare professional if you have a medical concern.”

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Google has made no secret of its interest in healthcare IT. Between 2008 and 2011, for example, it built and supported Google Health, billed as a way to consolidate users’ health records into a single online profile. While lack of widespread adoption eventually killed that project, Google has jumped onto the activity-tracking bandwagon with Google Fit, which offers ways for users to track their physical activity. Now it’s bringing that interest in health to its core search property.

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Image: Google