Amid coronavirus concerns and an increasingly cautious population, it is becoming difficult for people to access their healthcare providers. A large number of these providers are turning to technology to remediate this situation and continue providing their patients with regular consultation.
In response to this effort, Google search features now include information to help connect people with virtual healthcare providers. There are two new features being added to Google search results to assist people in finding available virtual care options on a local, regional, and national level.
When people search for healthcare options, Google My Business and Google Maps will now display healthcare options in search results to connect patients with virtual healthcare providers. A second pilot feature for organic search results is also being added to highlight these services.
Let’s take a look at these new features and how they can help patients connect with healthcare providers.
Google My Business
Google My Business will now feature available virtual care options in providers’ business profiles. These services will be particularly prominent when the profile is displayed in search results, and patients will be able to access the healthcare provider’s virtual care website directly from the business profile.
Clicking this link will take people to that provider’s virtual care website, where they will find more information on virtual care options and the provider’s COVID19 information. In most cases, patients will also be able to schedule an appointment via the provider’s virtual care platform right from the landing page.
Providers, whether doctors, mental health professionals, or hospitals, will need to add these services to their Google My Business Profiles, but links to the specific provider’s COVID19 information page will be added automatically.
Google has also recently published information on how providers can optimize healthcare related websites for search results. This list of insights for webmasters in charge of health-related websites includes some basic SEO information on page structure, content, and keyword research.
Virtual Healthcare Platforms in SERPs
Google will also implement a new pilot feature for search results, showing common virtual care platforms in US search results. For example, if someone submits a search for “immediate care,” Google will display virtual healthcare options and related material, including the out-of-pocket price and information on how people can connect with the virtual care platform.
Google is only acting as the intermediary in this connection between doctors and patients, and they will not be involved in any capacity concerning the actual consultation. Once the patient accesses the provider’s information and schedules an appointment, the virtual visit will then take place on the provider’s virtual care platform of choice.
Because providers are reducing or stopping in-person consultations to prevent the spread of COVID19, providers are able to provide consultations on available virtual care platforms for a wide variety of patient concerns, including anything from chronic conditions to mental health issues. Furthermore, the transition from traditional visits in doctor’s offices to those on virtual care platforms will make it easier for people to get access to their healthcare providers, especially during the COVID19 lockdown.
Virtual Care is Becoming the Preferred Method of Contact
Google stated in their announcement that a large number of healthcare providers are fighting the spread of COVID19 by choosing to treat patients in a virtual care environment, and Google is showing their support of this decision by adding these features to their search results.
In their April 10 blog post regarding the new features, Julie Black Director of Product Management wrote, “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.”
This may have been a response to substantially increased web traffic surrounding the topic of “telehealth,” especially toward the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in mid to late March.
Whatever may have prompted Google to implement these new features, the search engine giant has promptly taken action to make its search results as helpful as possible throughout the spread of COVID19.