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.
Healthcare providers like hospitals, doctors, and mental health professionals in the US can now enter a virtual care offering in their Business Profile, so that people searching for their local provider, for instance, might see a "get online care" link on Search and Maps.
"Clicking this link will take people to that provider's virtual care website where they can find more information, and in many cases, schedule a virtual healthcare visit with a provider," Google said in a statement on Friday.
Health consultations over the phone or by video conference not only help alleviate strain on doctors' offices and emergency rooms but are also recommended as an important way to protect patients and staff against COVID-19.
To help communicate changes that might affect someone's visit, Google is automatically surfacing a link directly to health providers' COVID-19 information page on Search and Maps.
"We've assembled best practices on how healthcare providers can update their websites and provide COVID-19 information on Google My Business," said Julie Black, Director of Product Management, Google Health.
Beginning as a pilot in the US, Google will also begin showing widely-available virtual care platforms directly on Search so people can more easily access virtual visits.
People will be able to see widely-available virtual healthcare platforms directly on Search as well as the out-of-pocket cost for a visit.
Google Cloud is also supporting healthcare providers with technology infrastructure and solutions.
This includes helping doctors support patients remotely with HIPAA-compliant G Suite products (including using Google Meet for telehealth or virtual visits), deploying virtual agents to field questions related to COVID-19, and helping with capacity-planning and demand forecasting of key medical supplies to better manage their supply chains.