Abdominal pain. Difficulty swallowing. Shortness of breath. Millions of searches on Google – in fact about 1% of all searches – are to look up symptoms like these.
Most of us have, at some point in our lives, turned to the internet to figure out what your medical symptoms mean. Unfortunately, this usually means having to look through pages upon pages of search results, getting confused, misdiagnosing yourself, and starting the entire search over again with different terms. Sometimes, Google would break the news that you have cancer, a brain tumor, or some rare, incurable disease. Time to get your affairs in order, poor Google user.
Now, however, Google is hoping to rid the web of such bum medical advice by rolling out new features over the next few days in English in the United States to make it much easier to get a more accurate list of health conditions that could be causing your symptoms.
Ask Dr. Google
If you ask Google about a symptom, say “headache on one side,” the search engine will show you a list of potentially related health conditions such as migraines, tension headaches, or sinusitis. If you ask about “headache,” your search will return with an overview of the various health conditions which may pertain to your issue plus information on how to properly treat a headache and whether or not you should visit the doctor.
The results will show up as a summary at the top of Google before search results so you don’t have to worry about sifting through thousands of results and websites and piece it together yourself. According to a blog post from Google, the search engine will use “high-quality medical information we’ve collected from doctors.”
High quality medical information
“We create the list of symptoms by looking for health conditions mentioned in web results, and then checking them against high-quality medical information we’ve collected from doctors for our Knowledge Graph,” the blog post continued. “We worked with a team of medical doctors to carefully review the individual symptom information, and experts at Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic evaluated related conditions for a representative sample of searches to help improve the lists we show.”
Eventually, Google hopes to extend this feature to other languages and internationally. So, next time you’ve got that splitting headache, a quick Google search might be a great place to start.