Google is launching major updates to how it serves health info

Here are the new health-related features coming to Google search, YouTube, and more.
google adds time availability for care providers in search
Google adds time availability for care providers in search. Google / Youtube

At Google’s second annual health event on Thursday, the tech giant brought together teams from search, YouTube, Fitbit, Care Studio, Health AI, Cloud and more to lay out the company’s new missions in personal health by introducing a suite of added features across a range of Google’s products.

In its search tool, Google is rolling out a feature that shows users appointment availability when they look for healthcare providers or care centers like MinuteClinic. This expands upon earlier efforts from the Google search team last year that aimed to make finding a doctor that accepts Medicare easier.  

For YouTube, the platform will add health source information panels on videos starting this week in Japan, Brazil and India. These panels will note when the health information presented in the viewed video is from an official source like a government agency or an accredited hospital. The panel aims to promote public health by labeling information from reliable and authoritative sources. 

[Related: Google search will now show you which local doctors accept Medicare]

YouTube will also compile videos from these vetted sources in something called health content shelves that will pop up on the top of the first page of video results in a carousel format under the label “sources of health information” when people search for specific health topics. “These context cues help people easily navigate and evaluate credible health information,” Karen DeSalvo, Chief Health Officer at Google, wrote in a blog.

Last, the Fitbit team, which launched a big heart study in 2020, has submitted their algorithm for identifying irregular heart rhythms to the FDA for review. (Google bought Fitbit in 2019.)

The company appears to be reorganizing and rebuilding its internal health-focused team after outlets reported last year that the unified Google Health division was dissolving, according to Stat. It’s not alone in this struggle. Another tech company, IBM, also failed to realize its full vision in using tech to solve problems in health care. 

Stat also reported that Google struck a deal last week with an electronic health records vendor, Meditech, to use its search and summarization tools to make it easier to find patient information in Meditech’s database.