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Google to beef up healthcare searches

Google-searchMOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – Google is introducing a new feature that will provide information on “common” medical conditions in response to related searches by users. The search giant’s Knowledge Graph, which supports its instant search results and underpins the Google Now personal assistant and app, will provide answers to health questions directly without requiring a user to click on a link.

Info without clicking is already a feature of searches for dictionary definitions, important sporting events and for Wikipedia entries about famous people. Acting as a built-in encyclopedia, Knowledge Graph can gather and present information and medical illustrations from a number of sources.

Google says it is expanding it to medical information because one in 20 searches is health-related. “We’ll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is – whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more,” Google said in a blog post.

Google says it developed the new capability with input from physicians from the Mayo Clinic, who will monitor and check data added to the Knowledge Graph database for accuracy.

Although it will initially be available only in the U.S., Google says it will eventually offer the feature globally, and continue to add more and more ailments, even rare ones. In the coming days the new information will be folded into Google search and Google apps in the U.S.

It will begin with information on around 400 medical conditions ranging from measles to diabetes, tennis elbow to frostbite symptoms, Google says.

“We’ll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is – whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more,” Ramaswami says.

On average, every item of medical information presented in response to a search will have been looked over by more than 11 different physicians, Google says. However, it emphasized, the new feature is not intended to replace a visit to a medical professional when a health issue arises.

“What we present is intended for informational purposes only – and you should always consult a healthcare professional if you have a medical concern,” says Prem Ramaswami, a product manager for Google’s search.

“Once you get this basic info from Google, you should find it easier to do more research on other sites around the web, or know what questions to ask your doctor,” the blog post said.

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