Google Health Showcases Appointment, AI Ultrasound Features

Google Health

Showing what connected care is capable of, Google Health held its second annual Check Up online event Thursday (March 24), putting search squarely at the center of healthcare journeys.

Discussing a range of projects, Google Chief Health Officer Dr. Karen DeSalvo revealed in a blog that the company is starting to roll out a new scheduling feature as part of its search engine that shows providers’ availability to make booking appointments simpler.

The first partner is CVS and its network of Minute Clinic urgent care locations.

“It can be a lot of friction when you’re making a doctor’s appointment. In the U.S. the average wait time for a primary care appointment can be 20 days or more,” said Hema Budaraju, senior director of product, health and search social impact. “It shouldn’t be this hard to get access to care.”

See also: Google Health Revamps With 3-Pronged Focus on Doctors, Diagnostics and Data

Google previewed some new health search features in a December blog focusing on helping searchers find providers who speak their language and accept their insurance. It also helps providers ensure their details are correct by allowing to claim and update their Google Business Profiles.

Partnering for Global Health

A related post by Dr. Garth Graham, director and global head of healthcare and public health partnerships at YouTube unit said the Google unit was adding features to enhance health-related searches and videos in Brazil, India, and Japan — with plans to introduce the enhancements in other countries over the coming months.

“This is our first step towards identifying and designating authoritative health sources on YouTube,” Graham said. “While only accredited health organizations and government entities are currently included in our health context features, we’re exploring ways to broaden eligibility and evaluate inclusion of other health sources.”

See also: New Google Health Pact Taps Natural Language Processing as EHR Advances Connected Care

Another bit of news from virtual events is on the artificial intelligence (AI) front.

Deep into healthcare metrics with its Fitbit wearables and unrivaled search data, Google said it’s exploring research that uses a smartphone’s built-in microphones to listen to heartbeats when they’re placed over the chest.

“Our latest research investigates whether a smartphone can detect heartbeats and murmurs. We’re currently in the early stages of clinical study testing, but we hope that our work can empower people to use the smartphone as an additional tool for accessible health evaluation.”

AI is also being evaluated, with one use case being for maternity care for the underserved.

Noting that “more than half of all birthing parents in low-to-middle-income countries don’t receive ultrasounds, in part due to a shortage of expertise in reading ultrasounds,” Google said “We are working on foundational, open-access research studies that validate the use of AI to help providers conduct ultrasounds and perform assessments. We’re excited to partner with Northwestern Medicine to further develop and test these models to be more generalizable.”

See also: Big Tech Wants to Use Healthcare Data to Advance Discoveries