Hospitals annoyed by bad search info

July 1, 2013 in Medical Technology

Here’s a question you may be surprised to hear many healthcare providers often find themselves asking: “Why can’t people look up my hospital’s name?”

That’s Ed Bennett, director of Web and communications technology at The University of Maryland Medical System and all-around healthcare social media guru. He’s voicing a common frustration for many of his colleagues across the industry: Google often offers incorrect contact information for hospitals. Its wrong search results can lead to inconvenience and – at least potentially – adverse health effects.

Worse, correcting the problem is a major challenge – for some large and complicated health networks, it’s an expensive, ongoing, nearly full-time job.

“Google is providing bad information in search results,” says Bennett. “And it’s impossible to get it fixed.”

Hospitals are frustrated – lots of them, based on the number of people who wanted to speak to us about the problem.

Many, the ones who can afford it, have hired outside consultants to deal with rectifying the situation. Others simply muddle through, trying to get the right information to appear in Google’s famous algorithms as best they can.

“The fundamental issue here is Google’s business model: Automate everything,” says Bennett. “There is no customer service. There is no one to call. They automate everything.”

The existing solution to rectify bad contact info is complicated and, hospital administrators argue, completely unsuited to the realities of a large health network. If a hospital sees that its search data is wrong, Google offers two ways to verify and claim its status and provide the correct information.

First, one can enter the correct phone listing, after which an automated call will ring those digits with a security code to verify the claim.

The other option is that Google will mail a postcard to the address in question, stamped with a similar a security code. Upon retrieving it, organizations can log onto Google Places and claim their correct info.

The notion of a revolutionary technology firm like Google sending hospitals – who themselves are working feverishly to embrace digitization and move away from paper – postcards through the U.S. Postal Service? It’s ironic, let’s just say.

“These processes work fine if you’re running a dry cleaner,” says Bennett. “They do not work if you’re managing 100 physical locations with 50 different location names.”

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