Microsoft has "turned on" enhancements to its health search capabilities that are built into its Bing search engine, according to a January 12 blog post on the Bing Community site.
"We’re providing more content from new partners and augmenting instant answers with hard-to-discover data that helps users get more out of their health search experience, both on- and off-line," blogged Alain Rappaport, Microsoft's General Manager of Health Search.
Among the new enhancements is the presentation of a "smart summary" related to a user's query. Bing analyzes related tops from an index of medical sources and extracts related data automatically, according to Rappaport. He cited as an example a query on "Type 2 diabetes," noting that it would return related conditions, such as obesity; medications that would be important to know about (like insulin); and a list of U.S. medical centers active in research in that field.
The health enhancements to Bing also include the presentation of "instant answers" as part of user queries. If a user clicks on a medical center in the aforementioned example, s/he would see patient ratings for hospitals, as well as other nearby facilities and points of interest. Medications also would get the instant-answers treatment. Medications also get related instant answers. For a particular medication, a searcher would see related medications and possible side effects, according to the blog post. Microsoft also has broadened the index of sources it is searching in health to include new content from previously omitted providers, Rappaport said.
I'm thinking these Bing health enhancements are part of the long and winding Bing 2.0 release, which began in November 2009. But they might be some of the smaller, more incremental enhancements that Microsoft officials have promised to deliver between big-bang Bing releases.
Health is one of a handful of areas on which Microsoft is focusing on with its Bing work. (Others include celebrity news, shopping, and travel, with particular focus on what's interesting to those in the Bing sweet spot: 18-34 year olds.) Microsoft has integrated health search information and results into its main Bing engine, rather than offering it as a separate service, as it did originally, when it was known as Live Search Health, the front-end to Microsoft's HealthVault medical-records service.