Google Maps and Hospital Hell Soon Coming to an End? Three Cheers!

Google Maps and the Local Business Center have been hell for hospitals. Virtually everything that could go wrong with Maps has gone wrong when it comes to hospitals getting their many listings correct in the LBC and the Maps index with the technical issues compounded by the lack of customer support. This has been an on-going problem and was first reported as long ago as March, 2007.

That being said it appears that Google is in the process of a formalized solution that could very well solve the problem: hospitals would be come eligible for whitelisting of bulk uploads.

Last week, in my article “Is Google Maps the Portal to Bizarro World?“, I wrote about the difficulties of a hospital being banned while attempting to mange the complex process of getting their many listings squared away. With hospitals, records are merged sending folks to the wrong address for the emergency room or inundating an internist’s office with calls meant for the main switch board. Typically phone verification in the LBC does not work for most hospitals due to their PBX’s and receipt of a post card in the right hands is more difficult to come by than single payer health care. The job of the hospital trying to gain control of their listings has often proven nearly impossible.

Given the critical public nature of the service that they provide, sending phone calls off to the wrong department, having the wrong address or phone number for the emergency room can lead to disaster. It points out the social problems that can affect us all when critical public information is left to the devices of an imperfect algorithm.

Historically Google had a dedicated form for hospitals to gain assistance from Google in getting their records squared away but that option had disappeared leaving many with no real solution and Google’s only advice to hospitals being the totally unsatisfactory & pitiful “check your mail system and make sure the mail doesn’t get lost”.

This recent post in the Help Forums captures the essence of the hospital issues:

I didn’t get the postcard… Must change Phone number ASAP!

John at Madigan
9/14/09

I am a systems administrator, and Webmaster for the Madigan Army Medical Center. I have tried to update our Phone Number (the correct number is 253 968-1110 all the other numbers are wrong… there are 3 listed) using the post card option. I did not get the postcard, not absolutely surprising as we are a LARGE facility with over 5000 employees. The phone number option is not viable, as the number listed is incorrect. It goes to our Pain clinic, who is UNINDATED with calls that they have to forward to the main switchboard. I MUST get this number changed IMMEDIATELY. Please Help!

John

It appears that Google, in response to Jeff Wiley of Hospital Bizarro World fame, has begun to formalize a solution not just for him but that will work for every hospital. He (and hopefully all) is being brought into the Bulk Upload Whitelist program. This should offer a real solution to any and every health care facility. From the post:

Hi Jeff,

I have good news. Your LBC account should be active now. I took a look and I suggest you submit a bulk upload for all your hospital listings so you do not have to individually verify each listing. After you create your bulk upload and it complies with our Local Business Center Quality Guidelines then you may submit a request to have it verified and listed on Google Maps by submitting your info here: http://maps.google.com/support/bin/request.py?contact_type=feeds_verify.

Please let me know if you have questions. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Cheers,
Linda

I may be premature on this but Grand Kudos to Google on moving to solve a pressing public safety issue.

For this solution to really work, it needs to be taken to the next level of operational and communication support. Google needs to back up the possibility of white listing with real people to approve the requests in a timely fashion. As long as Google is in the solution mood, lets hope that they communicate the solution broadly and publicly document this possibility so that every hospital can learn of it and take advantage of it. It is of such importance in my book that Google should initiate a focused outreach to every medical facility in the county.

This holds the promise of a great solution to a sticky problem… three cheers!

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Maps and Hospital Hell Soon Coming to an End? Three Cheers! by

13 thoughts on “Google Maps and Hospital Hell Soon Coming to an End? Three Cheers!”

  1. That is great news and I have a feeling that Mike B. was doing some kind of funky dance when he read this. It looks like progress is definitely on the way.

  2. It would be nice if this situation were cleaned up via this method. Your suggestion that Google proactively contacts hospitals to inform them of this method (assuming it works) is an excellent suggestion.

    If they manage to correct this situation they would be advised to advertise it. That could get other search engines and data providers to do something similar.

  3. @Mike Ramsey
    Being of the skeptic of mind/optimist of heart type, I rarely do the funky dance. And having some experience with Google’s solutions, know better than to celebrate just yet…the framework of a solution is a good start but just that…but here’s wishing them well on this most important of tasks.

    @EarlPearl
    They should contact AND educate about the solution… Jeff Wiley thought that what they proposed was the onerous and unfriendly previous bulk upload system. So even, who has been working at the problem needed educating.

    But what better way to spend their marketing money than getting Hospitals engaged in the project?

  4. It’s good to see Google taking these steps – but I’m not holding my breath. Verifying the listings is just one issue (albeit a huge one).

    What about all the duplicate listing issues and problems with merging records that shouldn’t be merged (and not merging records that should)? This is especially tricky for hospitals, which not only have a main address and listing, but listings for each practice area, department, and physician as well. Trying to figure out which listings are the same (and should be merged) is a very complicated task – and I don’t envy those working on this.

    It seems that introducing one more source of listing info (the bulk uploads) – even if they’re verified, still doesn’t solve the problem of correctly merging all records involved.

    Case in point: I’ve been working with a Hospital in my area that recently moved (to a brand new facility clear across town). We spent months verifying as many of their listings in the LBC (and elsewhere) by phone and post card. There are still many listings that we were unable to claim/verify that continue to show in the 10 pack and in G-Maps, with incorrect information.

    Again, kudos to Google for working on this – it’s a very difficult problem.

  5. @Jim

    You have nailed the complexity of the problem. This is obviously a first step but it is one that gives the hospital control over their current listings which is an important first step.

  6. Really delighted to see this very serious issue getting some attention. Obviously, there’s a hurdle here of someone in each hospital knowing about the LBC and the steps needed to upload a bulk listing, but we’re getting closer to a solution. Good news!

  7. This is bottom line scary… The thought that Google could have control over people’s lives like this and the fact that something so critical having to jump through hoops to get it fixed. As much as we all love Google it’s just scary to think that they keep acquiring more and more power over our daily lives.

    In this case it’s good to see that they are doing something about this and quickly, but wow we really have become very reliant on Google. Someone trying to contact an emergency room and at Google’s mercy. hum…

  8. @Miriam
    Certainly better than a fish and a potentially great idea but as you point out without educating hospitals as to its existence its utilization will be low and if they don’t staff it delays could be long…the devil is in the details and in this case, knowing how Google treats Maps, we can only wait and hope that it gets done correctly.

    @Kyle
    It isn’t just the nature of Google it is the nature of the society that we have created around us…

  9. Nice and impressive news the suggestion of your in Google proactively contacts hospitals to inform them of this method assuming it works is an excellent suggestion.

  10. Mike,
    Is there any info on the Whitelist beta program? Is this still happening? Any idea how one gets into the beta?

    Thanks for any insights.

  11. The program was rolled out and is available to all….the instructions are here.

    I understand it can take 2-3 months for bulk upload listings to be verified and it is absolutely best if you use an email address at the domain for which you are requesting verification.

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