Hospital systems have struggled with Google editorial content for years.
It’s the problem of inaccurate information on a multitude of Google listings. This includes wrong phone numbers, names and addresses which cause problems for patients, visitor and staff.
Now the problem has expanded. What was once limited to Google Maps now shows up in auto-generated content on Google+, Google Places and worst of all, Google search results. None of this data is sourced – in fact it’s presented by Google as accurate editorial content.
Recent articles have detailed the issues. For background, I recommend reading:
- Fix Google Maps Before Patients Start Dying by Chris Boyer the on KevinMD.com Blog
- Hospitals Annoyed by Bad Search Info by Mike Mullard, Managing Editor of Healthcare IT News
- There’s also an active hashtag on Twitter – #OccupyGoogleMaps started by Chris Boyer with this post
The goal of this post is to suggest solutions that:
- Acknowledge that Google will not change its “No Customer Service” business model. They won’t be hiring thousands of humans to take our phone calls or respond to emails.
- Are appropriate for large, complex organizations like hospitals, universities, government agencies, Fortune 500 firms, etc. Not your local dry cleaner or pizza shop.
Four Ways to Fix The Google Editorial Content Problem
1. Google must display the source of their editorial content. This allows us to track down and fix erroneous data.
2. Make it easier to claim ownership as an organization. For example, my hospital system has over 100 physical locations. 500+ program names, and over 1,000 affiliated physicians. All of them come to me when Google gets it wrong.
3. Automatic ownership of the numerous current listings based on metadata unique to the organization. Some examples using my hospital system include:
Unique Name – Any listing that uses “University of Maryland Medical Center”, “Greenebaum Cancer Center”, “Maryland Shock Trauma”, and dozens of others. It has to be unique. There are many places across the country called “Childrens Hospital” and “St. Joseph Hospital” which couldn’t be automatically claimed.
Unique Phone Number – This could be a single phone number or an entire exchange. At my hospital we use 410-328-XXXX. Any Google phone listing that begins with “410-328” should automatically be owned by us.
Unique Domain – We have over twenty websites in our healthcare system. Any listing that uses umm.edu, umgcc.org, umms,org, etc. are automatically ours.
Unique Location – We have over 100 street addresses, and most are completely owned by us. For example 22 S. Greene St., Baltimore, MD 21201 is our main hospital. Any listing with that address is ours.
4. Automated updating of Google listings. Google currently uses a clumsy process with web forms and spreadsheets. A better way uses a tool already in place at large organizations – the Web Content Management System
For example, once Google agrees that UMM.EDU is the official website of my hospital, we could embed metadata to feed our Google listings. Information would include:
- Official name
- Contact phone number
- Email address
- Geo coordinates for map pins
- Descriptive text for Google listings
- Links to images, approved logos
Using inheritance rules, we could provide different metadata for each of our departments, and custom information for each physician.
Google would need to provide a structured data framework for each field in Google Maps, Places, etc. plus the ability to create tags unique to our industry.
If Google sets this up, they would:
- Offload responsibility for accurate data to the organization in question
- Have a single “source of truth” for all Google products
- Enable the organization to manage 1,000′s of records from their own website.
This only works because large, complex organizations (the ones having problems with Google data) are also likely to have content management systems for website management – making metadata control possible.
I was contacted by Google last month about this problem, followed by several conversations with one of their representatives. They claim to be working on a solution and wanted my ideas. I provided everything in this post.
I want your suggestions. Comment on this post or email your ideas to me at [email protected] and I promise they will be shared with Google.