Google offers health info in its Knowledge Graph: what about law?

The Official Google Blog has a post “A remedy for your health-related questions: health info in the Knowledge Graph”. It announces that Google is going to treat certain health-information searches differently from the average search.

If a user searches a query that likely relates to some common health conditions, Google will surface reliable knowledge — set apart from typical search results — to direct the user straight to trustworthy, straightforward answers. Google will tell you what health problem it might be — and what the symptoms and treatments are, and how critical & contagious the disease might be.

Google Health Info - Legal Info 1 - open law lab

This is exciting in itself — but it also could be a great model for legal knowledge searches. I wrote earlier about the potential for Google to be a more usable legal help portal. This model, with trustworthy & clear information surfaced in response to a common query, would work to help people with legal problems.

Here is more from Google on this new health info initiative:

Think of the last time you searched on Google for health information. Maybe you heard a news story about gluten-free diets and pulled up the Google app to ask, “What is celiac disease?” Maybe a co-worker shook your hand and later found out she had pink eye, so you looked up “pink eye” to see whether it’s contagious. Or maybe you were worried about a loved one—like I was, recently, when my infant son Veer fell off a bed in a hotel in rural Vermont, and I was concerned that he might have a concussion. I wasn’t able to search and quickly find the information I urgently needed (and I work at Google!).

Thankfully my son was OK, but the point is this stuff really matters: one in 20 Google searches are for health-related information. And you should find the health information you need more quickly and easily.

So starting in the next few days, when you ask Google about common health conditions, you’ll start getting relevant medical facts right up front from the Knowledge Graph. We’ll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is—whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more. For some conditions you’ll also see high-quality illustrations from licensed medical illustrators. Once you get this basic info from Google, you should find it easier to do more research on other sites around the web, or know what questions to ask your doctor.

We worked with a team of medical doctors (led by our own Dr. Kapil Parakh, M.D., MPH, Ph.D.) to carefully compile, curate, and review this information. All of the gathered facts represent real-life clinical knowledge from these doctors and high-quality medical sources across the web, and the information has been checked by medical doctors at Google and the Mayo Clinic for accuracy.

That doesn’t mean these search results are intended as medical advice. We know that cases can vary in severity from person to person, and that there are bound to be exceptions. What we present is intended for informational purposes only—and you should always consult a healthcare professional if you have a medical concern.

But we hope this can empower you in your health decisions by helping you learn more about common conditions. We’re rolling it out over the next few days, in the U.S. in English to start. In the long run, not only do we plan to cover many more medical conditions, but we also want to extend this to other parts of the world. So the next time you need info on frostbite symptoms, or treatments for tennis elbow, or the basics on measles, the Google app will be a better place to start.

4 Responses
  • Feb 11, 2015

    What would a knowledge graph for legal question look like? It’s a great question for sure. Yet also, I suspect, a very hard one. This is because legal problems strike me as very different from medical problems. Legal problems — at least a large an important class of legal problems — are rooted in conflict between people.

    Imagine two people are fighting about a contract or an accident. They both go to Google for answers. Would we want to provide “answers” that helped the person searching frame their argument in the strongest possible terms? That is what a lawyer would do. But how could design it so that Google gave each user the strongest argument for their side? It would be a tough task.

    Perhaps then a legal knowledge graph would be more useful for a different class of legal problems. Problems that arise before an actual fight breaks out. When people are interested in figuring out rights and obligations before undertaking a course of action and a little more objectivity is possible. I’m not sure. I just know that the centrality of argument and conflict to so much of law (or at least litigation!) makes this a fascinating problem for me.

    Colin Starger Feb 11, 2015
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  • Feb 11, 2015

    Very interesting – I’d love to know whether Google has stats on the ratio of searches for legal information (or, rather, how to access those stats). Not surprised that one in 20 searches are for health info.

    Kristina Brousalis Feb 11, 2015
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