Google Search to let you find and book a doctor’s appointment; Fitbit testing AFib detection, alerts

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Google Search will have the ability to allow users to find doctors’ availability to schedule their health checkups, without having to use a third-party solution. The update was demonstrated Thursday at Google’s second annual healthcare-focused event, The Check Up. In addition to the Google Search update, the Mountain View, California-based company announced plans at its virtual event to integrate atrial fibrillation (AFib) detection support into Fitbit fitness-tracking devices to help people receive alerts for signs of an irregular heart rhythm . Google has also announced a series of Health AI updates aimed at transforming smartphones to act as stethoscopes or an ultrasound machine for early diagnosis, even in remote areas.

By partnering with healthcare providers and a number of scheduling solution providers, Google Search is introducing the ability to let users search for appointment availability for doctors and local healthcare providers. Users see available appointment dates and times for nearby doctors directly through search results.

Appointment availability is displayed when you search Google Search for a particular practitioner or facility. Once a relevant appointment date appears, you can click the Book button next to the available schedule. It will take you to the third party booking site.

Google Search will have the ability to let you find the availability of doctors and healthcare providers
Photo credit: Google

Google is initially partnering with some healthcare and scheduling solution providers in the US, including MinuteClinic at CVS. The feature will also be rolled out to users searching in English in the US in the coming days. However, it is planned to be available in other markets over time.

In addition to booking appointments through Google, Fitbit announced it is working on an AFib algorithm that will work with the existing Optical Photoplethysmography (PPG) sensor available on its wearables to detect and alert users to an irregular heart rhythm. The algorithm is currently under review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, it is expected to be available over time as an update to fitness tracking bands and consumer smartwatches by Fitbit.

Citing an internal investigation, Google said its internal algorithm accurately identified undiagnosed AFib 98 percent of the time.

Companies, including Apple, already have support for detecting and alerting users about AFib. However, Fitbit’s move could bring AFib detection to a range of price points.

Google also announced the expansion of health information panels on YouTube to markets such as Brazil, India and Japan. It was previously limited to the US.

Separately, Google announced its early developments under the Health AI division at the Check Up event. One of these improvements is to use a smartphone’s built-in microphones as a stethoscope.

Google cited research on how it uses the built-in microphones to record a participant’s heart sounds when placed over the chest.

The latest research examines whether a smartphone can detect heartbeats and murmurs, the company said. However, the detection is limited to certain smartphone models as it requires specific hardware input.

“We are currently in the early stages of clinical trial testing, but we hope our work will enable people to use the smartphone as an additional tool for accessible health assessment,” said Greg Corrado, Head of Health AI at Google. , in a blog post.

Google is also working with partners, including EyePACS and Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, to examine photos from smartphone cameras to detect diabetes and non-diabetic diseases.

Aside from using smartphone cameras to detect heartbeats, murmurs and signs of diabetes, Google said it is working on using artificial intelligence (AI) along with smartphones to provide maternal ultrasound. The company is working with Northwestern Medicine to develop and test its models to expand the research.

The general research into using AI and smartphones as a combination to boost healthcare is currently at an early stage and may take some time and further effort to work in the public.

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