Google looking to cash in on your medical queries

Google website

Every day a billion health-related questions are asked on Google and, obviously, the search giant is looking to harness that volume, despite criticism that the company has played a role in spreading dangerous misinformation about things like measles vaccinations.

According to Google Health boss David Feinberg — the former chief executive of major American healthcare provider, Geisinger Health — around 7 percent of Google’s daily searches are health related, which is an equivalent to 70,000 queries per minute.

“People are asking us about conditions, medication, symptoms and insurance questions,” he said during a tech conference in Austin, Texas. “In this case we are organising the world’s health information and making it accessible to everyone.”

However, doctors have for years warned against “Dr Google”, claiming that patients checking symptoms online has increased pressure on already stretched doctors in UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

Following public uproar over the appearance of conspiracy theories relating vaccinations to health problems, Google decided to step up its game by hiring teams of doctors and nurses to analyze search results.

“If you Google ‘how am I going to kill myself’, the first thing that comes up is a suicide prevention note… If you Google ‘holocaust’ and ‘myth’ the information that comes up is authoritative advice. If you Google ‘vaccines and autism’ it comes up with the original study that says [the study] was flawed and not appropriate,” he insisted — adding that the company’s goal is to have even more users asking for health-related questions and getting reliable answers.

As part of its healthcare efforts, Google-owned DeepMind introduced the Streams app to the Royal Free London hospital in January 2017. that could diagnose acute kidney injuries — which can lead to a patient depending on dialysis — in 14 minutes, almost four hours quicker than a human doctor. When it used complex algorithms to crunch the patient data, it was able to predict injury two days prior.

In addition, the company is also vested in other healthcare-related efforts through its Verily subsidy, and is also offering Wear OS and Google Fit platforms.