It’s a problem Google is aware of and so in June it launched its cure. A new app feature called symptom search has been developed alongside Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic.
Most of us book an appointment with Dr Google before we visit our GP. In fact, roughly 1 per cent of all Google searches are symptom-related. To put that in perspective, Google process more than 3 billion searches a day!
It usually ends in sifting through dozens of search results and finding nothing reliable or the internet concluding we have cancer or some other alarmingly condition.
Before you grab your mobile to try it, it’s unfortunately only being rolled out in the US to start with. Google plans to eventually bring it to desktop browsers and international markets. Hopefully soon, right?
How does the new symptom search app feature work?
Google teamed up with medical experts to build so-called symptom search cards for common health problems related to search terms such as “sore throat”, “skin rash” or “dry cough”.
At the moment symptom search only works through the Google search app on mobile phones. When using the app to check symptoms about six digital health cards will pop up below the search box. You can swipe through until you find one that fits.
Most cards will include an overview description of a health problem. It will also include self-treatment options and advice on whether it’s serious enough to warrant professional medical care. Other search results will appear beneath the cards.
“Before symptom search, you really had to know the exact name of what you were looking for to find the best health information.” Veronica Pinchin, a product manager on Google’s search team, wrote in a blog post.
“When you ask Google about symptoms [now] like ‘headache on one side’, we’ll show you a list of related conditions such as ‘headache,’ ‘migraine,’ ‘tension headache’, ‘cluster headache’, ‘sinusitis’ and ‘common cold’.
“By doing this, our goal is to help you to navigate and explore health conditions related to your symptoms. You want to quickly get to the point where you can do more in-depth research on the web or talk to a health professional,” she said.
Dr Google causes “needless” worry
Doctor Seth Martin, an assistant professor at John Hopkins University and practising cardiologist told The Australian: “The internet is filled with inaccurate medical advice, and busy doctors often encounter needlessly worried patients”.
“We’ve all had the experience where people come in with information they found online and it’s been way off,” Dr Martin said.
“When that happens, it’s an uphill climb to get patients back to an accurate understanding of what’s going on.”
Google says it will continue to improve on the new feature. Experts like Dr Martin are hoping will help prevent online misdiagnoses.
For advice on how to navigate the online world of symptom checking read this House Call Doctor post . We look at tips on how to stay on track when you’re researching your health on the internet.
What you find online should only be used for informational purposes and you should always consult a doctor for medical advice.
If you’re done Google searching and need a GP after business hours you can book a House Call Doctor online. You can also book via the app or by calling 13 55 66.