Google announced several health equity-focused updates to its products Monday, including an addition to Search that provides information about public insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
In a blog post, the tech giant said users will see eligibility requirements and how to enroll when they search for Medicare or Medicaid health plans. People currently covered under Medicaid will also be able to filter nearby providers who accept these plans, alongside a previously added filter for Medicare plans.
“Over the coming weeks, when people search for these programs, they’ll see additional information about eligibility requirements and the enrollment process for your state and the federal government,” Hema Budaraju, senior director of product, health and search social impact, at Google said during the company’s Health Equity Summit. “We believe that this can help people enroll more easily into these programs.”
Additionally, YouTube revealed THE-IQ, a partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation to help organizations create high-quality informational video content on health topics like mental health, maternal care and access to care.
YouTube and KFF will offer seed funding and video production assistance to The Loveland Foundation, which will create videos on mental health access for Black women and girls; the National Birth Equity Collaborative, which will focus Black maternal healthcare and outcomes; and the Health Equity Leadership and Exchange Network at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute, which will work on the root causes and drivers of health inequities.
“I think particularly in this age, where we’re seeing misinformation so prevalent [and] targeted disinformation efforts that are out there to undermine confidence in science and information. It’s really critical that we amplify credible voices and provide it in ways that people can relate to and connect with,” said Tina Hoff, senior vice president at KFF and executive director of the organization’s Social Impact Media Program.
Google also announced it would expand its health equity research program, first announced last spring as the Fitbit Health Equity Initiative. The expanded program, now called the Google Health Equity Research Initiative, will offer selected researchers at academic institutions and nonprofits in the U.S. access to direct funding, Google Cloud credits, Fitbit devices and analytics platform Fitabase’s services.
THE LARGER TREND
Google has added several updates to Search that aim to provide more information about healthcare services at a glance. In March, the tech giant said it was launching new functionality that gives users a list of available appointments when searching for a specific provider. It also added a tool late last year that helps users find in-network providers.
In the wake of the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, Google made abortion-related changes to its tools as well. Following push from Congressional Democrats, Google said it would clearly label healthcare facilities that provide abortions in Search and Maps to differentiate them from crisis pregnancy centers, which try to dissuade people from seeking abortions and may not offer accurate medical information.
The tech giant also said it will automatically delete location history when users visit sensitive places like abortion clinics.
Health misinformation has become a major concern on social media platforms like YouTube. An analysis published earlier this spring in BMJ Global Health found about 11% of YouTube’s most viewed videos on COVID-19 vaccines, accounting for 18 million views, contradicted information from the World Health Organization or the CDC.
YouTube rolled out new guidelines surrounding vaccine misinformation last year, and has been expanding features that identify the source and context behind health videos and provide content from medical sources at the top of results.