Google is making changes to search results to make it easier for people to find virtual healthcare options, the company said in a blog post released today. The changes, to be implemented “over the next week,” appear to facilitate the search for telehealth services, which have seen an increase in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Healthcare providers offering virtual care options will be able to add a link to their virtual care website in their business profile, and that link will appear in both search results and Google Maps. If a healthcare provider has a page dedicated to information related to COVID-19, Google says that a link to that page will also automatically appear. You can see what those additions would look like in the following image:
Google will also begin displaying “widely available” virtual care platforms on a separate card in search results when searching for terms related to immediate care. This card will be linked to the virtual care platform and will show information such as the pocket price for an appointment if you do not have insurance. This is being launched as a pilot in the US. And people could start to see links to the virtual care offered by Amwell Medical Group, Doctor On Demand, and Anthem in search results starting today, Google tells The Verge. Here’s a GIF that shows what those results will look like:
However, at this time, Google won’t introduce these new features if you’re looking for COVID-19 conditions or symptoms – you need to do more explicit searches to see them, the company tells The Verge.
In March, Google released improved information cards in search results for terms related to the new coronavirus and a dedicated website with resources on COVID-19. The company also offers free access to advanced features of Google Meet, its video conferencing service, to help families, students and workers at home communicate during the pandemic.
Google and Apple have also announced that they will work together to create a system to track the spread of COVID-19 on iOS and Android.