To prevent the spread of COVID-19, many healthcare providers are reducing or stopping in-person visits for a variety of patient needs, from the treatment of chronic conditions to mental health services to evaluating cough and cold symptoms. Yet, people need a way to continue getting medical care from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen interest in virtual care and telehealth rise dramatically. 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.
To help individuals and health care providers connect, we’re focused on providing individuals with access to high-quality and authoritative information and supporting them throughout their health journey. Over the coming week, we’re 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.
Local healthcare providers, now virtual
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, we’re automatically surfacing a link directly to health providers’ COVID-19 information page on Search and Maps, and we've assembled best practices on how healthcare providers can update their websites and provide COVID-19 information on Google My Business.
Find virtual healthcare, anywhere, anytime
Beginning as a pilot in the U.S., we’ll 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”, we’ll 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. The visit between the patient and provider will take place on the healthcare provider’s platform of choice.
For healthcare providers, helping you keep up with demand
In addition to helping healthcare providers with information about how to keep their online business information up-to-date, Google Cloud is supporting providers with technology infrastructure and solutions to assist with care delivery and operations. This includes helping doctors support patients remotely with HIPAA-compliant G Suite products (including using Google Meet for telehealth or virtual visits),deploying virtual agents to field questions related to COVID-19, and helping with capacity-planning and demand forecasting of key medical supplies to better manage their supply chains.
The global COVID-19 pandemic and the response to prevent its spread has changed the way individuals access and connect to health care. Across our products, we’ll continue to ensure that healthcare providers have the tools to connect with patients, and that anyone can access the information and care they need to stay healthy.