Google Starts Returning Quick Medical Facts

Chris CrumSearch

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Google is about to start displaying more medical information in its Knowledge Graph, enabling users to quickly search and retrieve important health info without necessarily having to click through to other sites. The company says it has been working with a team of doctors led by its own Dr. Kapil Parakh, M.D., MPH, Ph.D. to compile, curate, and review the information it shows.

"All of the gathered facts represent real-life clinical knowledge from these doctors and high-quality medical sources across the web, and the information has been checked by medical doctors at Google and the Mayo Clinic for accuracy," says product manager Prem Ramaswami. "That doesn’t mean these search results are intended as medical advice. We know that cases can vary in severity from person to person, and that there are bound to be exceptions. What we present is intended for informational purposes only—and you should always consult a healthcare professional if you have a medical concern."

"Think of the last time you searched on Google for health information," Ramaswami says. "Maybe you heard a news story about gluten-free diets and pulled up the Google app to ask, 'What is celiac disease?' Maybe a co-worker shook your hand and later found out she had pink eye, so you looked up 'pink eye' to see whether it’s contagious. Or maybe you were worried about a loved one—like I was, recently, when my infant son Veer fell off a bed in a hotel in rural Vermont, and I was concerned that he might have a concussion. I wasn’t able to search and quickly find the information I urgently needed (and I work at Google!)."

Ramaswami says his son was indeed OK (hopefully a doctor's assessment rather than Google's), and notes that 1 in 20 Google searches is health-related.

The new information sounds like a major step up from what Google has offered in the past. Before the Panda update, there were some pretty questionable articles ranking for some health-related queries. We're talking brain cancer articles from eHow written by non-medical professionals.

Google has been working on improving health search for years. In February fo 2012, the company started displaying lists of possible health conditions when the searcher typed a query for a symptom.

Interestingly enough, results for that same query look more like an old school SERP these days:

Later that year, Google added new medical info to the Knowledge Graph, specifically for medications:

The following year, the Knowledge Graph began to show nutrition information for foods:

The latest Knowledge Graph additions seem like a major improvement to Google's health-related search results. It's good that all of this information is being reviewed by a team of doctors before inclusion, which would suggest a better review process than some of the other Knowledge Graph info has been subjected to in the past.

Still, if it's important, don't rely on Google.

Images via Google

Chris Crum

Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.