At the end of 2020, Google announced that it was now offering an improved Google search for diseases, as it was working with the Federal Ministry of Health. This connection has now been classified as antitrust law.
Google Search – For the time being no cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Health
Many of us no longer rely on common sense and therefore classify all niggles as potentially life-threatening. Dr. Google does the rest and often makes devastating diagnoses that terrify people. A collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health was announced last year for better diagnostics.
All searches for symptoms or clinical pictures have now been clearly (and verified) presented with treatment options in a knowledge panel. A form of Google diagnostics that does not replace a doctor’s visit, but has been available in this form for some time in other countries.
But now there is trouble in the paradise of network doctors: Burda-Verlag has filed a lawsuit. He operates the portal netdoktor.de and is dependent on google, symptom-seeking customers. Other accusers are Wort & Bild (pharmacies around the world) and the Schleswig-Holstein media authority.
Google has already made a statement on its blog:
- … after a portal from the Burda Group sued on the grounds that it would be disadvantaged by displaying information from the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG). We have a different view: The display of information from the Federal Ministry of Health in the case of inquiries about certain diseases does not hinder the offers of the website owner. They will continue to appear in search results along with a variety of other websites.
- The display of the knowledge panels for clinical pictures is independent of the placement of the links in the search result list. Over the years we have found that the development of more relevant results such as knowledge panels, news carousels or images has resulted in users spending more time on the web pages they find using Google Search.
- The Knowledge Panels also don’t change how search ads work, and we have strict guidelines for advertising related to health issues.
- Our products are developed to give people access to high-quality and reliable information, as in this case of the BMG – but not to generate traffic for selected website operators.
So far, however, the judgment is not yet final:
- The operation of the national health portal by the BMG is not a purely sovereign activity, but an economic one that must be checked on the basis of antitrust law. The BMG has entered into an agreement with Google that restricts competition in the market for health portals. Because the best possible position on the results page of the Google search, namely the newly created, prominently highlighted position “0” in the info box, is not available to private providers of health portals from the outset. As the operator of a health portal, NetDoktor is particularly dependent on achieving good visibility on the Google search results page, as around 90% of users land on NetDoktor via a Google search. This visibility is severely limited because the info boxes distract and attract the attention of users from the general search results. In doing so, they already satisfy the users’ need for information in many ways. This leads to a reduction in the number of users at NetDoktor and thus potentially also to a loss of advertising income, with which NetDoktor finances its portal as a private provider.