Dr Google searches for where it hurts

When it comes to searching the Internet for medical information, it is not only patients who could be firing up Google.

Dr Google searches for where it hurts

Searching the Web may also help doctors to diagnose perplexing medical conditions, according to new Australian research.

‘Our study suggests that in difficult cases, it is often useful to google for a diagnosis,’ said Hangwi Tang, of the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane. His research paper is entitled ‘Googling for a diagnosis – use of Google as a diagnostic aid: internet based study’.

To test how effective Google was, Tang and his colleagues selected three to five search terms for 26 difficult-to-diagnose illnesses reported in a medical journal – the New England Journal of Medicine – and did a Google search.

After recording the top ranked answers that seemed to fit the symptoms and comparing them with the correct diagnosis, they found the Google searches came up with the right answer in 15, (58 per cent) of cases.

‘Web-based search engines are becoming the latest tools in clinical medicine, and doctors in training need to become proficient in their use,’ Tang said in the study published online by the British Medical Journal.

With Internet access becoming more readily available in outpatient clinics and hospital wards, the web is rapidly becoming an important clinical tool for doctors, he concludes.

You can find the list of illnesses, the search terms, and Google’s success in diagnosis here. For example, Google could correctly diagnose ‘Eosinophilic granuloma, Osteoid osteoma’ but failed on ‘Hyperaldosteronism’.

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