Misinformation (alright, fake news) is a serious issue regardless of what walk of life we're talking about, but it can be particularly worrisome when it comes to healthcare.
We all know the pattern of feeling under the weather, searching for our symptoms online and being told by a slightly dubious website that we're suffering from a life-threatening condition and should seek immediate help.
Well, Google and the NHS are certainly aware of the trope, and have partnered up on a new project to try to get UK searchers more reliable and factual results when they search about healthcare issues.
The NHS has effectively reformatted a bunch of its online information about conditions to make it easier for Google to surface these directly into search results, as you can see in the image above.
A pilot study
Initially, more than 250 conditions have been included in the change, which people in the UK should start seeing this week. We haven't been able to replicate them in the wild yet, but are interested to see how much of an improvement they mark over current piecemeal results.
Google calls these information boxes Knowledge Panels and in this case they're divided into three sections - an Overview, details on Symptoms and information on possible Treatments.
Given the current spread of the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, awareness from Google that it's one of the chief ways that people search for medical information is important, and these changes bode well for the promotion of accurate, official information. Whether other countries' healthcare providers can similarly work with Google to improve results remains to be seen.