Google rolls out new tools to help your doctor search

Providers can now tell you if they accept your insurance, and what languages they speak.

In an effort to make your doctor search easier — and serve as some kind of ball of string in the labyrinth that is the American medical system — Google has rolled out new search features meant to make finding care more accessible.

“Navigating the U.S. healthcare system can be quite challenging, so it’s no wonder three in four people turn to the internet first in their search for health information,” Hema Budaraju, director of Google search, wrote in the company’s blog.

“Navigating the U.S. healthcare system can be quite challenging, so it’s no wonder three in four people turn to the internet first in their search for health information.”

Hema Budaraju

New tools for your doctor search: Budaraju highlighted two new features to make a doctor search not only easier, but more useful: the ability to filter by if an office takes your insurance and if they speak your language.

When looking for doctors on mobile, Google will now offer filters to help narrow your search, including a toggle for practices that accept Medicare. That information extends to the various private insurances as well, Gizmodo reports.

Clicking the SHOW MORE tab will let you define your doctor search by distance, rating, hours, and features, which can now include the languages a doctor’s office speaks. 

People who do not speak English can have difficulty navigating the U.S. health system — hardly a surprise, considering the difficulty people face online even if they do speak English.

It’s a problem that goes beyond frustration, The Verge reports, as non-English speakers are at higher risk of a poor medical outcome because of the communication barriers they must surmount for quality care.

According to Budaraju, Google has over a dozen languages offices can choose to list, including American Sign Language and Spanish. 

All of this, of course, is dependent on doctor’s offices listing this data with Google, so you won’t find all of these parameters in every doctor search result.

When looking for doctors on mobile, Google will now offer filters to help narrow your search, including a toggle for practices that accept Medicare.

“Good information:” Silicon Valley’s track record in healthcare is currently a bit spotty — it turns out some systems are stubbornly resistant to disruption.

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and J.P Morgan’s healthcare collaboration Haven fell to pieces within three years.

For its part, Google’s efforts have encountered some headwinds as well. Google Health has suffered two reorganizations — not generally a good sign — and lost its department head. Speaking at the healthcare conference HLTH 2021, chief health officer Karen DeSalvo said this is part of a pivot to a broader strategy, industry publication FierceHealthcare reported

“It’s quite frankly one of the things that’s been most exciting to me about the company because we know that we can reach literally billions of people and give them good information to help them make better choices about their health or to navigate their care journey,” Fierce reported DeSalvo as saying.

Clicking the SHOW MORE tab will let you define your doctor search by distance, rating, hours, and features, which can now include the languages a doctor’s office speaks.

Rolling out new features for your doctor search, although modest, looks to be a step on the road to fulfilling that mission.

Those new features are joined by previous doctor search tools, including the option to list if offices are wheelchair accessible, link out to appointment-making sites, and listing if they have COVID-19 vaccines available. 

“Whether helping people find information to self-assess their symptoms for mental health conditions like depression or getting real time information of COVID-19 vaccine availability nearby, we continue to explore ways to connect people around the world to relevant and actionable information to better manage their health,” Budaraju wrote.

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