mobile google chrome browser showing appointments at MinuteClinics at CVS
At this early stage of the feature launch, users will view appointments at MinuteClinics at CVS, along with other appointment schedulers.

Google introduced a new search feature that would help patients view available appointments with health care providers. This was announced last Thursday by Google during the second annual Google Health event, The Check Up event. 

People who need health-related information usually resort to Google search. As such, the tech company assures that it aims to ensure that users will be able to access high-quality information when they need it. Checking for appointment availability is one of the newly introduced features in Search, which aims to help people make informed decisions regarding their health. 

During the event, Hema Budaraju, Senior Director of Product, Health and Search Social Impact at Google, introduced the new feature that allows patients to see the types of appointments available and the earliest appointments still open for booking. When the user clicks on the available appointment, they will be directed to the practice’s website to complete the appointment booking. Meanwhile, providers could use scheduling tools like Kyruss and Stericycle Communications Solutions to add their availability to their business profiles in Google. This is cost-free.  

At this early stage of the feature launch, users will view appointments at MinuteClinics at CVS, along with other appointment schedulers. As Budaraju said during the Thursday event, Google is starting off with a few early partners. Further, it will only be available in English at this stage. Eventually, the company aims to expand not only its network of partners but also its features and functionality. 

This added feature is part of the search features that Google announced in December, aiming to improve access to health information. These added markers on business profiles in Google so that some of the most important information that the patients would need to know will be provided. These include the languages that the provider uses and the insurance networks that they are accepting.  

Google also announced other healthcare initiatives. These include several research projects that would help detect illnesses by leveraging artificial intelligence tools. 

Google aims to develop tools that would allow potential illness to be identified with the use of external pictures of an eye taken using a smartphone camera. This initiative builds on a previous health program of the company, which screens for illnesses like diabetic retinopathy by analyzing the clinical captures of the interior of the eyes.  

Further, it also explores the potential of recording the patient’s heart rate through a built-in microphone in smartphones. The study’s initial focus is to design algorithms for the detection of patients’ heartbeats and murmurs. Eventually, however, the goal is to apply this to recognize which patients are at risk of heart valve disorders. The company also teamed up with Northwestern Medicine to improve maternal health outcomes using AI tools.

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