As part of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, some medical facilities are currently discouraging visits in person. But pandemic or no pandemic, many ailments won’t simply disappear and so sometimes we need to get help.
In such a scenario, Google wants to assist. The web giant recently announced it will begin highlighting health facilities that offer consultations over a video connection, enabling you to avoid a potentially busy waiting room thereby reducing person-to-person contact.
“Over the coming week, we’re beginning to roll out two new features in Search and Maps that make it easier for people to connect to virtual health care options, whether it’s to a doctor’s office down the street, the hospital across town, or a national telehealth platform,” Julie Black, director of product management at Google Health, announced in an online post.
The features have been made possible after Google started allowing health care providers such as hospitals, doctors, and mental health professionals to add information for a virtual care service to their online business profile. It means that if you use Google Search or Maps to look for a local provider, you may see a “get online care” link in the results.
Clicking this link will take you to that provider’s virtual care website where you can find more information and perhaps set up a health care consultation that will take place online.
Black said Google Search will also start showing widely available virtual care platforms, giving people more options when it comes to making virtual visits.
“For example, when people search for ‘immediate care,’ we’ll be able to also present available virtual care options and related information such as the out-of-pocket price charged for a visit (for those without insurance) and an easy way for people to directly connect with the virtual care platform,” the executive said.
The update to Search and Maps is likely to prove popular as Black noted in her post that since the pandemic started, interest in virtual care and telehealth has risen dramatically.
The severity of the pandemic has even prompted a collaboration between Google and Apple, with the two companies planning a new opt-in system using Bluetooth technology on smartphones to track the spread of the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. Data collected through the new system will be shared with local public health authorities to help them make better-informed decisions on how to deal with the outbreak.
For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.
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