Mayo Clinic working with Google to refine medical searches

Mayo Clinic reports…

To help give their users the best health information possible, Google now provides relevant medical facts upfront. For example, a search for arthritis will show, beside the resulting links, a few basic facts about arthritis and a definition. To ensure quality and accuracy, all of the gathered facts were confirmed by medical doctors from around the United States, which were then vetted by expert clinicians at Mayo Clinic.

The goal of this new feature is to provide medical information in a digestible way and to get basic answers quickly. Using Mayo Clinic as a primary source, Google provides information about symptoms and treatments, whether or not it’s critical, or contagious, what ages it typically affects, and more.

“We worked with a team of medical doctors, led by our own Dr. Kapil Parakh, to carefully compile, curate and review this information,” says Prem Ramaswami, Google product manager. “All of the gathered facts represent real-life clinical knowledge from these doctors and high-quality medical sources across the Web, and the information has been checked by medical doctors at Google and Mayo Clinic for accuracy.”

Aside from being super happy that Google is working with a Minnesota company, I have some mixed feelings on this partnership. Google is the go-to source for bar bets, lost lyrics, stock updates – everything. Most of us are aware that Google sells ads and many of us know Google uses algorithms that “personalize” your search results. For example if I search for [restaurants] and I’m in Minneapolis I get restaurants in Minneapolis. So results can be skewed and you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet – yet again, Google is the go-to.

Partnering with Mayo to lift up their results gives Mayo a lot of power. And mostly I think finding our what the Mayo says about heart disease is probably better than seeing 5 ads and then whatever websites have the best search engine optimization. BUT what if they went with someone other than Mayo? Or what if they decide to do this for other categories and I don’t agree with their chosen expert? How does this fit in with search engine manipulation effect?

This is when I miss sitting at a Reference Desk. I miss giving mini-info literacy lessons to each patron. You need to know the author, bias, date of every source. I think this strikes me because when I taught information literacy classes I often said – Google is great for quick facts but if you’ve just been diagnosed with something you might want to dig deeper.

This entry was posted in Healthcare, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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