Fighting Healthcare Misinformation: Google Partners World Health Organization

June 19, 2023

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In an effort to combat the spread of medical misinformation on the internet, Google and the World Health Organization (WHO) have partnered to address this critical issue. The collaboration between these two influential organizations aims to promote reliable and accurate health information, particularly during public health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.

MarketsandMarkets welcomes this development and our editors share their views.

What is the significance of Google’s partnership with World Health Organization?

  1. Partnership Goals: The partnership between Google and WHO seeks to improve the accessibility and reliability of health information on the internet. By joining forces, they aim to counter the proliferation of medical misinformation, ensure accurate information reaches users, and promote public health.
  2. Combating Misinformation: Google and WHO will work together to enhance the availability of trustworthy health information online and address the spread of misinformation. This includes promoting authoritative sources and debunking false claims related to health topics.
  3. Knowledge Panels and Search Results: Google will prioritize displaying credible information from WHO in knowledge panels and search results. This ensures that users searching for health-related information receive accurate and verified content directly from trusted sources.
  4. Misinformation Monitoring: Google will actively monitor and address the spread of medical misinformation across its platforms. This includes YouTube, Google Search, and other Google services, where efforts will be made to identify and remove false or misleading content that violates policies.
  5. Public Awareness and Education: The collaboration aims to increase public awareness and educate users about the importance of verifying health information from reliable sources. Google and WHO will work together to promote health literacy and empower individuals to make informed decisions about their well-being.

By combining Google's reach and technological expertise with WHO's authoritative health expertise, this partnership aspires to create a more informed and responsible digital health environment. Through their joint efforts, they aim to reduce the impact of medical misinformation and ensure that accurate health information is readily accessible to people worldwide.

Key aspects of this collaboration to combat misinformation in healthcare

What makes this collaboration unique can be looked at from five key aspects – none being more important than the other but rather each an important part of the piece. Let us look -

This initiative acknowledges the critical role of accurate information in promoting better health outcomes. By leveraging Google's search capabilities and WHO's expertise, the partnership seeks to provide credible and trustworthy health-related information to billions of people globally.

Google Search plays a significant role in providing information to individuals seeking reliable health-related content. Through Knowledge Panels, Google displays information from trustworthy sources, including WHO, covering a wide range of health conditions. The expansion of Knowledge Panels to include additional conditions such as COPD, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, Mpox, Ebola, depressive disorder, and malaria will enhance access to accurate information. Moreover, the availability of this information in multiple languages will cater to diverse populations.

Recognizing the limited access to healthcare in under-resourced communities, Google aims to accelerate the digital transformation of health systems. The Open Health Stack (OHS), an open-source suite of building blocks, enables local developers to create healthcare apps based on interoperable standards. By facilitating the development of patient-centered solutions that work offline and share health information across systems, OHS supports the delivery of equitable healthcare in resource-constrained settings. Early adopters in Sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Southeast Asia are already leveraging OHS components for digital health solutions., the philanthropic arm of Google, has provided significant support to WHO through Ad Grants. These grants, valued at over $320 million, have been utilized to promote public health topics beyond COVID-19, including Mpox, mental health, flu, Ebola, and natural disasters. By serving millions of public service announcements and driving visits to the WHO website, the Ad Grants program has helped disseminate authoritative information to a wide audience. has committed to providing an additional $50 million in Ad Grants for 2023 to support WHO's ongoing work in public health.

The collaboration with WHO demonstrates Google's commitment to healthcare initiatives. Google Health focuses on several areas, including information dissemination, bridging the digital divide, and supporting public health through grants. Through these efforts, Google aims to leverage its technological capabilities and global reach to empower individuals, support healthcare systems, and improve health outcomes worldwide.

  1. Prevent Medical Misinformation
  2. Access to Trustworthy Health Information
  3. Bridging the Digital Divide in Healthcare
  4. Support through Advertising Grants
  5. Leadership and Impact

What is Google Health?

Google Health is an umbrella under which various healthcare initiatives are undertaken by Google. It focuses on leveraging technology and data to improve healthcare outcomes, facilitate access to information, and enhance the overall healthcare experience for individuals and communities.

Google Health's primary objective is to harness the power of information and technology to address challenges within the healthcare industry. This includes developing tools, platforms, and partnerships that promote the delivery of accurate and reliable health information, enable the digital transformation of healthcare systems, and support public health initiatives.

By utilizing its expertise in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, and user experience design, Google Health aims to empower individuals with access to trusted health information, enhance healthcare delivery, and contribute to advancements in medical research and innovation.

It's important to note that the specific focus areas and initiatives undertaken by Google Health may evolve over time as the company continues to explore opportunities to make a positive impact in the field of healthcare.

Which focus areas does Google Health have?

Google Health focuses on several key areas within the healthcare domain. These areas include:

It's worth noting that Google Health's focus areas may evolve over time as new challenges and opportunities arise within the healthcare landscape.

  1. Information Access and Dissemination: Google Health aims to provide individuals with access to reliable and trustworthy health information. This involves ensuring that accurate and up-to-date health-related content is readily available through Google Search and other platforms. Google Health works to combat medical misinformation and improve health literacy by partnering with reputable sources, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), to provide authoritative information to users.
  2. Digital Health Transformation: Google Health seeks to accelerate the digital transformation of healthcare systems. This involves leveraging technology and data to enhance healthcare delivery, improve patient outcomes, and increase efficiency. Google Health develops tools, platforms, and open-source initiatives to enable interoperability, facilitate the secure exchange of health information, and support the development of innovative digital health solutions.
  3. Research and Innovation: Google Health actively engages in medical research and innovation. By applying advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning to healthcare data, Google Health aims to uncover insights, patterns, and predictive models that can improve diagnostics, treatment plans, and disease management. Google Health collaborates with researchers, healthcare providers, and institutions to drive innovation and contribute to scientific advancements.
  4. Public Health Initiatives: Google Health recognizes the importance of public health in promoting well-being and preventing disease. It supports public health initiatives by partnering with organizations like the WHO to address global health challenges, disseminate information during health emergencies, and promote awareness and education on various public health topics. Google Health utilizes its platforms and resources to amplify public health messages and provide targeted support to communities in need.
  5. User Experience and Empowerment: Google Health places importance on enhancing the user experience and empowering individuals to take control of their health. This involves developing user-friendly health-related tools, applications, and wearable devices that promote self-care, encourage healthy behaviors, and facilitate better health management. Google Health aims to empower individuals with the information and tools they need to make informed decisions about their health and well-being.

Who leads Google's Healthcare initiatives

Google's healthcare initiatives were led by Dr. David Feinberg. Dr. Feinberg served as the Vice President of Google Health and was responsible for overseeing the company's healthcare-related projects and strategies. He brought extensive experience in healthcare leadership, having previously served as the CEO of Geisinger Health, a renowned healthcare system in the United States. During his tenure at Google, Dr. Feinberg focused on leveraging technology and data to improve healthcare outcomes and enhance the overall healthcare experience for individuals and communities.

Multidisciplinary Team with Clinical Collaboration: Google Health has assembled a diverse team of experts, including engineers, clinicians, designers, and researchers, all dedicated to transforming the future of healthcare. The team's composition reflects a commitment to a multidisciplinary approach. Collaboration with clinicians is emphasized, ensuring that healthcare initiatives are developed in close consultation with experts in their respective fields. This collaboration ensures that Google Health initiatives adhere to the highest clinical standards.

Leadership and Expertise: Dr. Karen DeSalvo, as the Chief Health Officer, leads the team at Google Health. With her background in medicine, public health, and information technology, she brings a wealth of experience in improving health and eliminating disparities. Dr. DeSalvo provides guidance for the development of inclusive research, products, and services. Her previous roles, including serving as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and Assistant Secretary for Health, demonstrate her commitment to advancing consumer-oriented, transparent, and value-based healthcare systems.

Technical and Clinical Expertise: The team at Google Health includes professionals with a range of expertise in areas such as AI and machine learning, clinical practice, health economics research, and public health. This diverse expertise allows for the development of innovative healthcare technologies and solutions. The collaboration between technical experts and clinical practitioners ensures that Google Health's initiatives are rooted in scientific excellence and aligned with real-world healthcare needs.

Research and Development Integration: Google Health embraces a model of embedded research and development, where scientists work closely with product and engineering teams. This collaborative approach enables the integration of cutting-edge research findings into real-world applications. By bringing together researchers with backgrounds in clinical science, artificial intelligence, informatics, and user-centered design, Google Health aims to drive innovation and create transformative healthcare technologies.

Focus on Equity and Inclusion: Google Health emphasizes diversity, equity, and inclusion in both its product development and workforce. The dedication to diversity is reflected in how the team builds its products and collaborates with diverse communities. By considering the needs of underrepresented populations and addressing health disparities, Google Health aims to create inclusive and equitable solutions that can benefit everyone.

Which companies have partnered with Google Health?

The partnerships and initiatives of Google Health:

Location: India

Partnership Purpose: The collaboration aims to study the integration of deep-learning models into clinical workflows using diagnostic tools like x-rays. The goal is to improve the accuracy and availability of diagnostic services.

Location: India

Partnership Purpose: The focus is on developing and deploying machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities for retinal imaging, specifically for diagnosing diabetic retinopathy. The aim is to contribute to the elimination of needless blindness.

Location: United States

Partnership Purpose: Google Health is working with Ascension, a prominent U.S. health system, to transform the clinician experience and enhance patient care. The collaboration seeks to leverage technology to improve healthcare delivery.

Location: Zambia

Partnership Purpose: Google Health is collaborating with the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia to explore the use of AI-powered tools for diagnosing and assessing patients, particularly in the context of tuberculosis. The aim is to assist clinicians in determining the best next steps for patients being evaluated for TB.


Location: United States

Partnership Purpose: Google Health and Mayo Clinic are combining their expertise to research and build transformational healthcare solutions. By leveraging data analytics, artificial intelligence, and clinical knowledge, the collaboration aims to equip healthcare providers with advanced tools for personalized patient care.

Unique in their scope and purpose, these partnerships focus on various aspects of healthcare, such as diagnostic services, retinal imaging, clinician experience, infectious disease diagnosis, and personalized treatments. Through these collaborations, Google Health aims to leverage technological advancements to improve healthcare outcomes for individuals, caregivers, and health professionals.

  1. Partnership with Apollo Hospitals:
  2. Collaboration with Aravind Eye Care System:
  3. Partnership with Ascension:
  4. Collaboration with CIDRZ:
  5. Collaboration with Mayo Clinic:

What is US government doing about misinformation in Healthcare?

The U.S. government is taking several measures to address misinformation in healthcare. Here are some initiatives and actions taken:

  1. Public Health Campaigns: The government has launched public health campaigns to promote accurate and evidence-based information. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies have disseminated accurate information through various channels to combat misinformation and educate the public.
  2. Fact-Checking and Dissemination of Trusted Information: Government agencies and public health organizations actively engage in fact-checking and debunking false or misleading claims. They provide accurate information through official websites, social media platforms, press releases, and collaborations with trusted sources, aiming to ensure that reliable information reaches the public.
  3. Health Communication Strategies: The government utilizes health communication strategies to effectively communicate accurate information to the public. This includes clear and concise messaging, using multiple channels to reach diverse audiences, and collaborating with healthcare professionals, community leaders, and influencers to amplify accurate information.
  4. Regulation and Policy Development: The government implements regulations and policies to address misinformation in healthcare. For example, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates deceptive advertising and fraudulent claims related to health products and services. Additionally, agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) work to ensure that health-related information and advertisements meet specific standards.
  5. Collaborations and Partnerships: The U.S. government collaborates with various stakeholders, including social media platforms, technology companies, healthcare providers, and academic institutions, to tackle misinformation. These collaborations aim to develop strategies, guidelines, and tools to identify and counteract misinformation effectively.

It's important to note that addressing misinformation is a multifaceted challenge, requiring ongoing efforts from government agencies, healthcare organizations, technology platforms, and individuals. By promoting accurate information, implementing regulations, and fostering collaborations, the U.S. government seeks to mitigate the impact of misinformation on public health and promote evidence-based decision-making.

How WHO plans to empower better quality information on healthcare?

The information provided highlights WHO's efforts to improve the quality of health information online:

  1. Collaborative Endeavor for Health Literacy: WHO/Europe has collaborated with YouTube Health to enhance the quality of health information online and promote health literacy. This partnership aims to make reliable and high-quality health information universally accessible, ensuring that individuals can access accurate information without confusion.
  2. Role of Digital Platforms: The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the significant role of digital platforms in disseminating health-related information. With a large share of consultations happening online, people often search for symptoms and medical advice on the internet. This highlights the importance of reliable information and the potential risks associated with misinformation and disinformation.
  3. Risks of Inaccurate Information: Inaccurate or misleading online health information poses a considerable risk to individuals' health. Infodemics and misinformation can negatively impact health behaviors and contribute to noncommunicable diseases such as cancer or diabetes. It is crucial to address the distorted understanding of health hazards and provide reliable information to promote better health outcomes.
  4. Empowering Individuals with High-Quality Information: High-quality health information empowers individuals to take control of their health, make informed decisions, and improve their overall well-being. As more people rely on the internet for medical advice, it is essential to ensure that the available information is reliable, accurate, and up-to-date. Collaboration with healthcare stakeholders, including patients, professionals, ministries, NGOs, and social media platforms, is vital in achieving this goal.
  5. Trust and Scientific Evidence: Building trust in authoritative online health information sources requires working with academia and other partners to generate scientific evidence on the impact of misinformation on quality of care. By consolidating the creation of scientific evidence, WHO aims to foster trust and promote the use of reliable health information sources.

Overall, WHO aims to empower better quality information on healthcare by fostering collaborations, promoting health literacy, addressing misinformation, and ensuring the availability of reliable and evidence-based health information online. Through partnerships and evidence-driven approaches, WHO strives to improve health outcomes and support individuals in making informed decisions about their health.

How does misinformation affect healthcare patients?

The information provided highlights the impact of medical misinformation on healthcare patients, particularly those with cancer:

  1. Prevalence of Misinformation: A significant proportion of patients with cancer endorse medical misinformation about standard-of-care treatments and unconventional therapies. The survey conducted among clinicians at a large cancer center revealed that around 15% of patients endorse false or misleading claims about standard treatments, while approximately 20% endorse claims that exaggerate the benefits or downplay the risks of unconventional treatments.
  2. Reasons for Endorsement: Patients' endorsement of medical misinformation can be attributed to various factors. The primary reasons identified by clinicians include providing hope, poor medical literacy, distrust in conventional medicine, cultural factors, and religiosity. Understanding these underlying reasons is crucial for effectively addressing patients' concerns and providing appropriate care.
  3. Attitudes of Clinicians: Clinicians displayed different attitudes towards patients who request unconventional treatments based on misinformation. The most common attitude projected by clinicians was openness and equanimity, followed by curiosity and skepticism. Disdain or disappointment towards patients was rare. Internally, clinicians experienced openness and equanimity, skepticism, curiosity, and some disdain or disappointment in these situations.
  4. Challenges in Correcting Misinformation: Correcting medical misinformation was found to be challenging for clinicians. Success rates for correcting misinformation were reported to be below 60% by 38.2% of clinicians and below 80% by 68.5% of clinicians. Factors contributing to low success rates included insufficient time, inadequate resources, lack of training, and insufficient institutional support.
  5. Need for Training and Resources: The study highlighted that many cancer care providers feel insufficiently trained and supported to address patients who endorse medical misinformation. To effectively address this issue, cancer care institutions need to develop comprehensive training programs and allocate resources to equip clinicians with the necessary skills and knowledge to address patients' concerns about misinformation. By doing so, healthcare providers can ensure that patients receive accurate information and make informed decisions about their care.

Medical misinformation has a significant impact on healthcare patients. Understanding the prevalence, underlying reasons, clinician attitudes, and challenges in correcting misinformation is crucial for providing effective care. Addressing this issue requires comprehensive training, allocation of resources, and institutional support to empower clinicians in effectively addressing patients' concerns and promoting accurate health information.

How does misinformation affect healthcare providers?

  1. Challenging Patient Interactions: Healthcare providers, such as clinic staff and pharmacists, often face challenging situations when misinformation spreads among patients. Protesters spreading false claims about the COVID-19 vaccine outside a school clinic is an example. Such encounters can create an environment of tension, where healthcare providers need to take measures to ensure the safety and well-being of patients.
  2. Impact on Patient Care: Misinformation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, can have significant effects on patient care. It can dissuade individuals from seeking necessary healthcare, promote vaccine hesitancy, lead to medication noncompliance, contribute to disease outbreaks, and even result in hospitalization or death. Exposure to misinformation has been shown to weaken intent to receive vaccines, indicating the potential harm caused by false claims.
  3. Exacerbating Health Disparities: Misinformation and disinformation tend to affect underserved populations and marginalized groups the most. Factors such as historical distrust of authorities, lower health literacy, and digital disadvantage can make individuals more vulnerable to believing misinformation. This exacerbates existing health disparities and further widens the gap in healthcare access and outcomes.
  4. Psychological and Emotional Factors: Misinformation often thrives in situations where individuals experience distress or a lack of control. The COVID-19 pandemic, with its uncertainties and fear, provided fertile ground for the spread of false claims. Psychological factors, such as feelings of powerlessness, disillusionment, and mistrust in authorities, can contribute to the acceptance of misinformation.
  5. Role of Healthcare Providers: Healthcare providers, including pharmacists, play a critical role in addressing and countering misinformation. Best practices include pre-bunking, which involves proactively addressing myths and misunderstandings before they take hold. Providers should check their biases, listen attentively to patients' concerns, ask open-ended questions, and share accurate information in a convincing and relatable manner. Pointing patients toward credible sources and considering misinformation as a social determinant of health are additional strategies to combat misinformation effectively.

Misinformation can create challenging situations, affect patient outcomes and healthcare access, exacerbate health disparities, and be influenced by psychological and emotional factors. Healthcare providers must be equipped with strategies to address misinformation effectively and promote accurate health information to protect the well-being of patients.

What is Google Health Connect?

Google Health Connect is a service developed by Google in collaboration with Samsung that serves as a centralized hub for health data from various fitness and health platforms. It allows users to aggregate their data from different services and devices, even if they are not natively supported by certain platforms. The purpose of Health Connect is to provide users with a unified location where they can access and manage their health information.

Health Connect was announced at the Google I/O conference in 2022 and has since gained support from several popular platforms in the health and fitness industry. Initially launched as a beta version, it has now become a preinstalled app on Pixel phones and will be included as an official Android system app in Android 14.

The service supports a wide range of platforms, including Fitbit, Samsung Health, Google Fit, MyFitnessPal, Oura, Flo, and more. While there are some notable exclusions and limitations in terms of supported metrics and data types, Health Connect can accommodate various health-tracking measurements, such as calories burned, blood pressure, body temperature, sleep, steps, weight, and many others.

Health Connect is primarily designed for individuals who utilize multiple devices and services to track their health and fitness data. By connecting different apps and platforms to Health Connect, users can synchronize their data and view it collectively in one place. For example, if someone wears a Fitbit but wants their step data to appear in Google Fit, they can link the two apps through Health Connect, allowing Fitbit to write data to Health Connect, which can then be read and displayed by Google Fit alongside data from other services.

Setting up Health Connect and connecting supported apps is a straightforward process, and users can customize the data permissions they want to share. The app is still in the beta stage, and some inconsistencies and limitations may be present. However, as more platforms and services join Health Connect, it is expected that the app will continue to improve and offer a more polished experience.

Overall, Google Health Connect aims to enhance interoperability and integration among various health and fitness apps, providing users with a seamless and centralized experience for managing their health data.

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