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Doctor Google!

"THE practice of "Googling" for a diagnosis could help doctors and patients accurately identify their ailments, research suggests. A study has found that putting symptoms into the Google internet search engine produced the right diagnosis in the majority of cases. But experts warned that relying on the internet could be dangerous to patients and the web should be used with caution. It is thought that doctors carry two million facts in their heads to help them diagnose illnesses, but with medical knowledge expanding rapidly, even this may not be enough. "
Doctor Google! Reviewed by Sumer Sethi on Saturday, November 11, 2006 Rating: 5


Ward Merkeley,M.D. said...

Today an article titled" Googling for a diagnosis-use of Google as a diagnostic aid: internet based study" appeared in the November 10 issue of the BMJ, British MedicalJournal.

The article's authors , Hangwi Tang and Jennifer Hwee Kwoon NG, discuss the success of using Google search to diagnose patients by putting in their signs and symptoms(3-5).

The diagnostic cases(26) were taken from the New England Journal of Medicine 2005.

The results were impressive. What the Google search found were numerous revelant articles and citations which when read by physicians could selected the correct diagnosis 58% percent of the time.

Currently, the searches are performed by typing in multiple signs and symptoms, ie,

sore throat, rash,.... fever, etc.

Some shortcomings were noted. For one, searches were less likely in complex diseases with non-specific symptoms or " common diseases with rare presentations."

One can anticipate various ways to increase the accuracy of diagnosing:

- input of vital signs: HR, T,BP, O2 sat
- input of lab values
- input of signs and symptoms in appearance order
- imaging study results

This paper shows there is a tremendous interest in medicine in using Google as a search tool in the diagnosing and possible care of patients.

One can imagine the benefit to young doctor in developing country who now have access to a grand medical library in their hands.

Ward Merkeley, M.D.
Spokane WA

Anonymous said...


There continues to be alot of discussion in the BMJ about googling for a diagnosis. When google walks into a room, people look up and have lots of thoughts.
Using the internet for medical purposes is rapidly evolving. Many professional are using it in novel ways or just trying it out.
Using the internet as a source for medical information in developing countries with no medical libraries or textbooks is
going to be huge.
Just imagine having a database of standard xrays and MRI for radiology students to look at.Do you see Indian students using the internet much for medicine. If so how are they using it.



Sumer Sethi said...

yes in india particularly radiology residents are already using internet in a big way no textbook has the number of images available on the net ,, other than google, pubmed, emedicine,, are very commonly referred to by medical students...

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