Google's health updates include an easier way to see if a clinic offers free or low-cost care

The company will also help people find Medicaid info ahead of the re-enrollment deadline.


At its annual health event, The Check Up, Google announced a slew of updates for Search, Fitbit and developers. On the Search front, the company says it will soon identify community health centers and make it clear whether those facilities have free or low-cost care options. It seems there will be a label that reads, "offers free or low-cost care based on individual circumstances."

In addition, Google says it has employed Duplex to call hundreds of thousands of US healthcare providers and verify their information. The conversational AI has also been used to check whether providers accept various state Medicaid plans.

After several pauses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Medicaid will have a re-enrollment deadline this year. If folks in the US who are currently enrolled in the program fail to sign back up by March 31st, they'll lose their healthcare coverage. To help ensure people maintain their coverage, Google says it will make it easier for everyone to find re-enrollment information on Search.

Medicaid registration links in Google Search results.
Medicaid registration links in Google Search results. (Google)

To assist those seeking help in a crisis, Google has teamed up with ThroughLine, which it says is the "largest verified network of mental health and crisis helplines around the world." As a result of the partnership, Google will expand the number of crisis helplines it displays at the top of Search results in more languages and countries for queries related to personal crisis situations, such as suicide and domestic violence.

Google search page showing suicide and crisis lifeline results for the query
Google search page showing suicide and crisis lifeline results for the query (Google)

As for Fitbit, Google is opening up more of the Health Metrics Dashboard features to users who don't have a subscription. The company says that, for instance, users will be able to view trends for metrics such as breathing rate, skin temperature and blood oxygen levels over longer periods of time.


Meanwhile, Google touched on some health-focused updates for developers. It discussed a suite of development tools called Open Health Stack, which it described as "open-source building blocks built on an interoperable data standard." In other words, Open Health Stack is designed to help developers build apps for healthcare workers to access key data and insights, such as population health data.

Google says the suite is based on Fast Healthcare Interoperability Standards and can be used to build apps that keep data secure for offline use in areas without internet connectivity or cell coverage. For instance, a developer in Kenya called Intellisoft Consulting is building a maternal health app designed to help community health volunteers and pregnant women in rural communities.