Google has announced a few improvements in its search results that seek to provide more precise information on medical symptoms online.
Instead of consulting a doctor, users can search their symptoms on Google using keywords like “stomach ache’ or ‘headache.’ In response, the search engine will give them an overview of potential conditions, possible treatments, and which type of doctor they should consult. This was a much-needed upgrade as many symptoms are common in several different diseases.
Moreover, iOS and Android users will be able to see digital cards through their browsers. These cards can be swiped through, with each box briefly describing a common disease that is related to the symptoms you search. Built in coordination with Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School, the cards will also educate the user about self-treatments. Underneath the digital cards, users will be able to see the URL links they have visited, which will help save time and keep a check of which websites were used as references and which should be avoided.
Veronica Pinchin, one of Google’s search team project managers, said before a user could search for his/her specific symptoms, it was important to know the exact name of what you are searching for so that the results could be narrow and precise. However, it was hard to detect the exact problem due to several reasons.
The Internet is filled with information with a host of diseases and conditions that are quite similar to one another, causing doctors and patients both to be on the edge, according to practicing cardiologist and assistant professor Seth Martin from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Individuals approach doctors after reading information off the internet, often trying to treat themselves, making their condition even worse. About 1% of all the searches made on Google’s search page are related to medical symptoms.
For now, the digital cards will only be available in the US and in English; however, the company is looking forward to bringing this feature to international platforms, in many languages, and even to desktop platforms as well.
Many doctors, however, are loath to accept the authenticity of the feature. Wanda Filer, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, says that she strongly feels no information that is available on the Internet is so authentic or credible that it can easily replace a qualified and professional doctor.