Over the coming week, Google will be beginning to roll out two new features in Search and Maps that make it easier for people to connect to virtual healthcare options, whether it’s to a doctor’s office down the street, the hospital across town, or a national telehealth platform.
Healthcare providers like hospitals, doctors, and mental health professionals can now enter a virtual care offering in their Business Profile, so that people searching for their local provider, for instance, might see a “get online care” link on Search and Maps. Clicking this link will take people to that provider’s virtual care website where they can find more information, and in many cases, schedule a virtual healthcare visit with a provider.
The pandemic has affected many healthcare providers’ operating hours and walk-in visit policies. To help communicate changes that might affect someone’s visit, Google will automatically surface a link directly to health providers’ COVID-19 information page on Search and Maps, and has assembled best practices on how healthcare providers can update their websites and provide COVID-19 information on Google My Business.
Beginning as a pilot in the U.S., Google will also begin showing widely-available virtual care platforms directly on Search so people can more easily access virtual visits. For example, when people search for “immediate care”, Google will 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.
Last month, Google launched enhanced information cards in search results for terms related to the novel coronavirus and a dedicated website with resources about COVID-19. The company is also offering free access to advanced features of Google Meet, its videoconferencing service, to help families, students, and workers who are at home communicate during the pandemic.