Fix Google Maps before patients start dying


It happened to me again.

This morning I got another email from one of our physician practices:

“Our early morning patient was late today because she Googled our office and it gave her the wrong directions/location. Help!”

This is not a one-time thing. Over the last seven months that I’ve been in my new position (and the four years prior at my old position), I have fielded dozens of requests from hospitals, physician practices, ambulatory centers, etc., asking to fix their Google business listing because of a wrong address, phone number or more.

The above physician practice has been particularly difficult because they moved locations six months ago, and now have not one, not two, but three incorrect listings in Google. One has the wrong address (and ranks first in searches) and the other two have the right address but wrong contact phone number. I’ve been trying to fix this for months to no avail.

I understand how some of these mistakes can happen. Google pulls business listings  from a variety of “trusted sources.” With health care organizations, some of these “sources” include not only legitimate business directories, but also Vitals, HealthGrades and other review sites.

Wouldn’t Google want to provide an easy and reliable way to resolve these mistakes? They spend a lot of time working on their search algorithms to get the most accurate information to the top of their search engine. Doesn’t this extend into their business listings?

Apparently not. A recent article on Search Engine Land said that up to 43% of business location information online is inaccurate.  And Google’s method for updating/validation content is difficult, at best.  As Ed Bennett recently said in an article about the Google Maps problem:

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

It’s true — their process only provides you two options: an automated phone call that calls the number on your listing  (hopefully it’s not incorrect), or an automated postcard (!) that gets mailed to the address on the listing (again, hopefully it’s not correct).

If your phone number and address are both incorrect on your business listing, you’re forced down a non-intuitive rabbit hole of a process that involves:

  • Reporting the incident anonymously (as if this actually works)
  • Try to claim a Google+ business page (I guess this is how they are attempting to invigorate their failing social network)
  • Find a button somewhere in the process that allows you to schedule a call with Google (thanks @briankeithmay for the blogpost)
  • Scour your address book/contact book/close circle of friends to see if they know someone at Google that you can contact
  • Give up on it all, and just hope Google fixes itself

Actually, the last one really isn’t an option. We can’t just turn our back on Google. Whether we like it our not, Google is becoming a public utility: everyone uses it to find relevant information. It’s why the Yellow Pages are a thing of the past – everyone is Googling everything now – phone numbers and addresses, everything.

A recent study indicated that the business cost for incorrect business listings is estimated at more than $10B. Imagine if you work for a hospital and the cost of business is patient care and safety. This is not just about patients showing up late to appointments – patients are using these incorrect listings on their way to an emergency department.

We have to #OccupyGoogleMaps. Join me in raising our voices on Twitter, on Facebook and on Google+, and help Google see the error in their ways. We need to fix this problem now, before somebody gets hurt.

Chris Boyer is associate vice-president, digital strategy, Northshore/LIJ Health System.  

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