Reporting Incorrect Emergency Data To Google – Following Up

***IMPORTANT UPDATE:

Google is no longer allowing emergency service providers to contact them directly regarding misrepresented business contact information. To read about and comment on this important change in Google’s policy, come to this post.

I’d like to follow up regarding the post I wrote last week about my experience using Google local listings during a medical emergency.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Maps Guide Jen regarding the 4 incorrect medical listings I encountered in the 10-Pack/One Box while seeking medical aid. It was good of her to write to me, and I’m thankful for that. Google is looking into the matter, and in the meantime, Jen showed me something I hadn’t seen before. I’m wondering if any of you have noticed the link referenced in Jen’s email:

Hi Miriam,

Thank you again for providing those search results. We’ve traced the information back to some of our third-party data providers, and are pursuing investigations into the best way to correct the listings. I’ll follow up with you as soon as this is done.

I understand that the main concern expressed is that the repercussions for incorrect information on hospital listings is much greater than that of non-emergency service businesses. We completely agree with this. In fact, we allow hospital and medical service listings to be edited partly for the reasons that you’ve expressed (outdated or misdirected information). Community edits for these listings come under great scrutiny. Our contact options in the help center http://maps.google.com/support/bin/request.py?contact_type=contact_policy allows users to tell us specifically when emergency service, shelter, and other hospital data is incorrect, and we aim to resolve these within 48 hours. While it’s not possible for us to go through every single hospital listing in our index, we do our best to ensure the accuracy of major listings.

We’re always working on new ways to connect in with and hear the voices of all our business owners. Driven, solution-oriented feedback like yours really helps us in knowing what improvements will make the biggest impact for you, SEOs and other business owners. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions or questions!

Take care,
Jen

Sure enough, there is a link right on the page Jen directed me to that reads:

I see incorrect business information for emergency services, hospitals or shelters

I had never seen this before. Had you?

I am concerned that most folks will not know that this link exists, or that it is a way for people to hopefully get a faster response from Google in the case of incorrect emergency/medical provider data. Owing to my recent experience, I’m in that frame of mind where one realizes, “If it happened to me, it’s probably happening to lots of people.” And, in very strange case of coincidence, reader Dana Lookadoo of Pixel Position left a comment on my blog relating her extremely similar experience a year ago, in her own city, when her husband’s appendix ruptured:

Since my husband knew the area better than me, he drove there, no map needed. However, he was in the hospital 2.5 days. I was now on my own. I relied on Google Local’s maps to guide me. The map gave the wrong street name. I drove in circles across a freeway and back multiple times. I walked into the hospital frustrated at Google.

I’m doubting that Dana knew of the link on the Google contact page, and I continue to feel concern about this.

As it seems pretty clear that Google plans to continue depending upon the public to correct errors in their LBC database, I made a suggestion in my response to Jen’s email, based upon the fact that Google does have this feature in place to facilitate reporting this specific class of errors. Why not have a little icon like a red cross or something in 10-pack, One Box or Maps listings of emergency/medical providers accompanied by a link reading REPORT INCORRECT DATA. It can’t take the place of Google committing to ensure that their data is correct by contacting hospitals, doctors, police stations, firehouses, etc., but something like this might take us one step closer to creating public awareness that Google’s data on emergency services providers may not be correct, and that if it is incorrect, the public can easily bring this to Google’s notice.

I continue to feel that this is a critical situation, where pubic safety is at stake, and I’m glad that Google is trying to figure out what to do about it. I don’t envy them their job. They have taken on a huge responsibility – maybe one that they didn’t fully understand when they pulled Local into their Universal SERPs. I must say, it feels wrong to me that accuracy for Google’s data is being placed on the shoulders of the public, without the public understanding that. Yet, if this is the route Google is determined to pursue, then I would say that every effort should be made to make the reporting system as prominent and accessible as possible.

What do you think? I’d like to know.

5 Responses to “Reporting Incorrect Emergency Data To Google – Following Up”

  1. on 12 Nov 2008 at 5:00 pm Dana Lookadoo

    Many thanks, Miriam, for sharing this information. I had no idea! I am impressed that Google Maps contacted you and provided clarification. I’d like to add my letter to them…

    Dear Google,
    Let me make a checklist for the next time we have an emergency:
    1. Check Google Maps & print.
    2. Rush to hospital with hopes that map is correct. If not, proceed to #3.
    3. Stop and ask directions at gas station or pedestrian while placing pressure on ruptured organ or bleeding appendage.
    4. Wait in ER. Pray time was not wasted.
    5. Recover and return home to Google Maps. Find the Help Center.
    6. Go to Google Help › Maps Help › Contacting Support › Contact Us. Click on “I see incorrect business information for emergency services, hospitals or shelters.”
    7. Report incorrect emergency listing with hopes to save someone’s life.

    I would prefer NO listing rather than doubt a listing when faced with an emergency.

    Thankful, however, that we have this bit of information about Google Maps!

  2. on 13 Nov 2008 at 5:00 pm admin

    Hi Dana,
    I appreciate your tongue-in-cheek help list. I know just how you feel. I’ve had to struggle with my own feelings of frustration and concern in writing about this. Part of me wanted to write about it angrily, but I figured that wouldn’t help me beyond letting me vent my annoyance. Like you, I see the very real dangers inherent in a company choosing to be a provider for emergency medical services listings, and then failing to take personal responsibility for the accuracy of those listings. It’s hard not to be anything but disturbed by that.

    My decision was that the best thing to do was to blog about it, telling nothing but the truth, and going with your tongue-in-cheek route in hopes that the irony of the situation might be felt by all who read about it, including Google.

    I was thankful for their response, and glad to see that they do at least have the intention of viewing emergency data as different from data about pizza places, but we are far from seeing a real resolution to this issue.

    It will be great if Google can fix the 4 errors I reported to them. But what about your errors? What about your parents’ errors? What about the guy down the street’s errors when he needs to get to a hospital?

    This remains a big problem, in my mind, and I think we bloggers need to keep writing about it. We could very well help to save lives.

    Thanks so much for your comment!
    Miriam

  3. on 16 Nov 2008 at 6:21 pm Tim Coleman

    …continuing to make the world a better place Miriam, well done.

    After your first post on this I checked out some other local sites and they didn’t seem to be much better.

    Though I think we’ve come to expect more from Google. Maybe the all important question is – should we?


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  5. on 19 Jun 2009 at 8:12 am earlpearl

    Miriam: There are currently 2 hospitals currently commenting in Google Groups forums for Maps. One is in Great Britain, the other in Canada. Both have problems with phone numbers being erroneous in Google Maps. I went to the link provided by Jen in the above article. It no longer provides an opportunity for direct contact with the correct information and quick fixes.

    It seems that that was a very short lived effort at providing emergency support.

    I don’t think I’ll be relying on information provided in Google Maps at this point in time when it comes to emergency institutions.

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