Google will show virtual care options more prominently in search results

Illustration: Alex Castro / The Verge

Google is making changes to search results to make it easier for people to find virtual health care options, the company said in a blog post published today. The changes, which will be rolling out “over the coming week,” appear to make it easier to find telehealth services, which have seen a surge in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health care providers that offer virtual care options will be able to add a link to their virtual care website on their business profile, and that link will appear in both search results and on Google Maps. If a health care provider has a page dedicated to COVID-19-related information, Google says it will automatically surface a link to that page as well. You can see what those additions might look like in the below image:

 Image: Google

Google will also begin surfacing “widely-available” virtual care platforms in a standalone card in search results when you search for terms related to immediate care. That card will link out to the virtual care platform and show information such as the out-of-pocket price for an appointment if you don’t have insurance. This is launching as a pilot in the US, and people could begin to see links to virtual care offered by Amwell Medical Group, Doctor On Demand, and Anthem in search results starting today, Google tells The Verge. Here’s a GIF showing what those results are expected to look like:

However, at this time, Google won’t surface these new features if you’re searching for COVID-19 conditions or symptoms — you need to be making more explicit searches for care to see them, the company tells The Verge.

In March, Google launched enhanced information cards in search results for terms related to the novel coronavirus and a dedicated website with resources about COVID-19. The company is also offering free access to advanced features of Google Meet, its videoconferencing service, to help families, students, and workers who are at home communicate during the pandemic.

Google and Apple have also announced they will be working together to build a system for tracking the spread of COVID-19 into iOS and Android.

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