The coronavirus pandemic is making it tough to see a doctor. So in response, Google plans on adding virtual healthcare options on the company’s search engine and mapping service.
The changes are set to arrive in the coming week. On Google Search in the US, if you’re looking for immediate care, the search engine will display virtual healthcare services, such as Livehealth Online, Amwell and Doctor on Demand, near the top of the results.
The same results will also tell you the out-of-pocket, no insurance cost for a visit. A link can then take you to the desired healthcare provider’s platform.
On Google Maps, the company is going to let hospitals and doctor’s offices to add a link about any virtual healthcare options they can offer to patients. “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,” Google said in a blog post on Friday.
In addition, searching on Google Maps for a specific hospital or clinic will also surface any dedicated COVID-19 webpages the healthcare provider may have created in response to the pandemic.
Google is adding the new options to address how people suffering from medical conditions outside of COVID-19 still need ways to find treatment. However, venturing outside to visit a hospital already packed with patients suffering from the virus is ill-advised. Meanwhile, many clinics and doctor’s offices have stopped or reduced in-person appointments.
As a result, Google has noticed a dramatic rise in searches for virtual healthcare and telemedicine. “Health consultations over the phone or by video conference not only help alleviate strain on doctors’ offices and emergency rooms but are also recommended as an important way to protect patients and staff against COVID-19,” Google director of product management Julie Black wrote in the blog post.