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Google sifting through one billion health questions each day

Google wants to harness the billion health-related questions people ask it every day to provide better healthcare, despite criticism that the Search giant has played a role in spreading dangerous misinformation about measles vaccinations. Google Health boss David Feinberg said that around 7 per cent of Google’s daily searches were health related, equivalent to 70,000 every minute. “People are asking us about conditions, medication, symptoms and insurance questions,” he said during a technology conference in Austin, Texas. “In this case we are organising the world’s health information and making it accessible to everyone.” The former chief executive of major American healthcare provider, Geisinger Health, said that Google was trying to correct its fake news problem and “teams” of doctors and nurses analysing search results following public uproar over the appearance of conspiracy theories relating vaccinations to health problems. “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. Some of the company’s most popular services, like YouTube or Maps, have more than one billion users per day. Mr Feinberg said Google hopes that the same will be true of its health products. “We can streamline care, and the purpose for that is we want your nurse to look you in the eye and not at the computer,” he said. “We want the person on the end of the phone to say ‘we have been expecting you’. We want to know everything about you”. Technology intelligence - newsletter promo - EOA GPs have for years warned against “Dr Google”, claiming that patients checking symptoms online has increased pressure on already stretched doctors in the National Health Service. Google has made some impressive moves in healthcare, applying artificial intelligence to traditional roles of radiologists to diagnose. DeepMind, part of Google parent company Alphabet, introduced a Streams app to the Royal Free London hospital in January 2017, which 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. I feel this urgency this need to move fast,” added Mr Feinberg. “But then we have to be super careful because we do not want to erode trust if people stop coming to Google it is game over. At the same time, we have tools to make care better and we need to get them out.” Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The internet is a key source of information for many people who want to find out more about their health - but it’s important for everyone to be aware that there is a huge amount of fake or dubious health news out there, so it’s encouraging to hear that senior representatives at Google now recognise this and want to address it. “It’s a good thing for patients to take an interest in their health, but we would recommend that they use reputable, unbiased UK websites, such as NHS.uk, as a source of safe reliable health advice.”

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