Google Can Now Help You Navigate the Mess That Is American Healthcare

Google Can Now Help You Navigate the Mess That Is American Healthcare
Now you can look for a doctor that takes Medicare with a simple Google Search filter. (Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo)

The healthcare system in the U.S. is incredibly flawed, to say the very least. It’s no surprise that Google is attempting to insert itself as a helper when it comes to navigating the big mess.

Going to the doctor can be harrowing. For instance, if you speak another language, you might worry about whether you and your care provider will be able to communicate, even with a translator present. And if you’re on a public health care plan like Medicare, you’re probably anxious about whether any medical practice will accept your insurance.

Starting today, you can search for these things through Google Search from your phone. As you look for “doctors near me,” Google will offer up a few filters at the top to narrow down your choices, including whether the doctor accepts Medicare.

The health care check extends to private insurance, too, but you’ll have to tap to expand for more information. It’s not always guaranteed to be listed. If insurance information is available, Google will include an external link and direct you there through a separate browser window. If the doctor uses ZocDoc or accepts appointments through an online portal, Google will list that, too. Overall, it’s much easier to search this way than endlessly scrolling through a doctor’s copy-and-paste-a-layout website.

A preview of what it's like looking for a doctor through Google search.  (Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo) A preview of what it’s like looking for a doctor through Google search. (Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo)

Google also added the option for healthcare professionals to list whether they can translate over a dozen languages, including Spanish and American Sign Language. But it looks like the healthcare providers in my area may need to update their listings because I couldn’t find a doctor that listed out whether they spoke another language or not.

Google said in its blog post that it’s conducting checks to make sure that the details in each listing are up to date and that doctors claim their respective business profiles. I was impressed to see the amount of detail the search engine already has on some practices. I’ve long been cross-referencing the reviews of doctors from other sites with Google reviews, but now I can even see whether the doctor takes virtual appointments, offers any testing on-site, and if there’s parking nearby.

Google listings also include information on the types of services a doctor specialises in. For instance, if you’re looking for a psychiatrist with a particular focus on, say, an anxiety disorder, you can tap through different therapy collectives and seek a caregiver that way.

It’s nice that Google is making the process of finding a doctor easier to navigate. In my personal experience, the American “healthcare system” often requires that you conduct time-consuming research beforehand, which is not always possible when you’re also tending to the daily grind.

Google has always said that one of its goals is to index the world’s information. This way, there’s somewhere you can start your search for a doctor who can help — and Google captures another segment of our lives.