'We're where people start their healthcare journey': Dr. David Feinberg on the power, future of Google search

Google's search engine has become one of the first lines of medical consult for people around the globe, serving as a main driver of the tech giant's healthcare innovation focus, according to Google Health Vice President David Feinberg, MD. 

During a March 1 episode of former Sen. Bill Frist's "A Second Opinion" podcast, Dr. Feinberg discussed Google Health's efforts to streamline healthcare and make it more understandable for consumers. 

Here are six insights from Dr. Feinberg, according to a March 11 Forbes report. 

1. Dr. Feinberg noted Google's role in healthcare technology, claiming that the company is one of very few that have really changed healthcare: "But I actually think there’s only one example of where tech really did fundamentally change healthcare, and that’s Google search," he said. 

2. Google search is not only accessible, but one of the first lines of medical advice people seek out, he said. Before an emergency room visit, 70 percent of people do a Google search on their symptoms or conditions, according to the report. 

3. The current version of Google Health is trying to address two main issues in American healthcare: delivering health information that patients and their families can understand and use, and ensuring patients get timely care when needed most. The company is working to build products that are transparent and address these challenges, Dr. Feinberg said. 

4. Google's strength lies in its ability to order large amounts of information, search it and deliver authoritative and structured results. Of the billions of searches Google gets each day, healthcare makes up a large portion of the queries, according to Dr. Feinberg. 

"We are where people start their healthcare journey," Dr. Feinberg said. "And we’re open 24/7."

5. While the company has seen success in healthcare with its search engine, Dr. Feinberg said his goal is to move Google Health into additional opportunities. He highlighted the company's partnership with St. Louis-based Ascension, to recreate the Google search experience for clinicians within the system's EHR. 

"At this point, I’d still call it pilot, but we have live patient data with doctors, and we think—likely—we’ll be able to improve care for people," he said. "They won’t get tests they’ve already had because the doc couldn’t find it. They won’t get asked questions they’ve been asked 100 times because that information will be available. We hope that it’ll lead not only to better quality care, but more time with your doctor." 

6. Google Health is looking to expand collaborations with more health systems to work on improving clinician and patient experiences, he said.


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