Google adds “Health Info” to Knowledge Graph

Declan Hoffman, Features Editor

Since its launch in 2012, “Knowledge Graph” has provided virtually automatic results for common Google searches like weather forecasts, people or unit conversions that add an appreciable level of convenience for googlers. “Medical Info,” Google’s latest addition to Knowledge Graph, was released early February to further the application’s functionality by providing essential medical knowledge when key words, phrases or questions are searched.

“Dr. Google,” as many are referring to it as, provides vital medical knowledge on illnesses for the user to “set their mind at ease” over minor aches or pains, as described by Google Product Manager Prem Ramaswami.

The widget that comes up on the right side of the google results page includes a brief description of the illness, its severity and how contagious it is, what age ranges it most affects, an informative illustration drawn by a licensed medical illustrator, symptoms as well as diagnosis and treatment options.

“It’s a nice tool for people who don’t know where to go, but as 21st century students, people should know where to go for more detailed info on diseases and their processes,” said Health-Science teacher Elizabeth Laffan.

Google is not claiming to provide this service as professional medical advice, but merely a way of adding a level of convenience for the consumer by providing them with credible medical information.

“We know that cases can vary in severity from person to person … you should always consult a healthcare professional if you have a medical concern,” said Ramaswami in a Google blogpost.

Google set out creating this addition to Knowledge Graph in Early 2013 and has been working with their chief consultant, Dr. Kapil Parakh, M.D., MPH, Ph.D., for most of the developmental process and other physicians from Google and the Mayo Clinic for accuracy checks.

One out of every 20 Google searches is medical-related according to the company and has been one of the main reasons they started this project. Ramaswami discussed how there is a clear demand for such information from consumers and that by Google implementing Health Info, there would be a new range of opportunities awarded to the company.

“We hope this can empower you in your health decisions by helping you learn more about common conditions. In the long run, not only do we plan to cover many more medical conditions, but we also want to extend this to other parts of the world,” said Ramaswami.

This newly gained database of verified medical information belonging to one of the world’s most influential companies has sparked rumors about potential products for Google. Bloggers have suggested a “Dr. Google” that can diagnose and treat while others have conceived less exaggerated ideas such as a virtual healthcare mid-level provider that can work to guide the patient on a diagnosis, given certain in-home equipment, but still refer them to a real nurse or physician.

“I can’t see Google creating anything from Health Info that would take away the role of a doctor,” said STEM student Thomas Bell.

Health Info may not replace any health care professionals with a computer, but simply provide a more centralized source of credible medical information, something clearly very important to the consumer, as summarized by Google.

“The next time you need info on frostbite symptoms or treatments for tennis elbow or the basics on measles, the Google app will be a better place to start,” said Ramaswami.