After announcing that they are “making significant investments in health, wellness, and life sciences,” Google has now added a questionnaire after you search depression in the search engine. The National Alliance on Mental Illness worked with the internet giant to create an assessment for people who could possibly be depressed to gauge whether they should seek help.
This is huge news considering that only 50 percent of people who are depressed actually seek treatment. When one searches the word ‘depression’ or related topics, a pop up window appears asking the user “are you depressed?” If your answer is yes, you get redirected to a nine part questionnaire.
The PHQ-9 asks you about your sleeping and eating habits, whether you have suicidal thoughts, how low or high your energy levels are, and a few more questions to test whether one needs to seek help. It should be noted that this quiz is not and should not replace a professional diagnosis, but “can be the first step to getting a proper diagnosis” according to Mary Giliberti, the chief executive officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
In a post on the google blog, Gilberti also said, “Statistics show that those who have symptoms of depression experience an average of a 6-8 year delay in getting treatment after the onset of symptoms. We believe that awareness of depression can help empower and educate you, enabling quicker access to treatment. And while this tool can help, it’s important to note that PHQ-9 is not meant to act as a singular tool for diagnosis.”
Google is the largest search engine on the internet. With 5 percent of 1.17 billion users (over 58 million people) using the search engine for health related queries, this is a crucial first step in urging people to seek help for their depression. It isn’t the only first step either. Last month, Google bought a startup that uses Artificial intelligence to turn people’s phones into mobile health diagnosis tools. Google released a statement saying “We think that AI is poised to transform medicine, delivering new, assistive technologies that will empower doctors to better serve their patients. Machine learning has dozens of possible application areas, but healthcare stands out as a remarkable opportunity to benefit people — and working closely with clinicians and medical providers, we’re developing tools that we hope will dramatically improve the availability and accuracy of medical services.”
With more people searching for answers to their health problems, it is important for the technology to be as accurate as possible. Google seems to be taking the right steps in that direction.