Dr. Google’s Symptom Search
Always consult a doctor for medical advice. Well yes, but for many of us, that’s after we first do an Internet search for our symptoms. Google recognizes this reality and is attempting to make web-surfing symptoms more accurate, with more helpful (and appropriate) listings served up.
Try it: Open the Google app, and enter your symptoms or what you suspect is a condition you might have. Unfortunately, I recently needed to know “recovery time broken tibia.” I Googled, and at the top of the page this popped up:
Some tibial shaft fractures heal within 4 months, yet many may take 6 months or longer to heal. This is particularly true with open fractures and fractures in patients who are less healthy. Early motion. Many doctors encourage leg motion early in the recovery period.
It wasn’t welcome news, but it verified what my doctor said. Plus, the accompanying links offered much more targeted and helpful information than when I first broke my ankle and started my compulsive web searches.
According to a Google blog post, developers created the list of symptoms by looking for health conditions mentioned in web results, and then checked them against high-quality medical information collected from doctors. They worked with doctors to review the individual symptom information, and experts at Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic helped compile a list of related conditions.
There are plenty of other online health symptom checkers as well. The Mayo Clinic Symptom Checker has a one, two, three approach: 1. Choose a symptom, 2. Select related factors, and 3. View possible causes. Others include the Cleveland Clinic MySymptomChecker and the WebMD Symptom Checker.
Google says about 1 percent of its search queries are related to health symptoms, and the symptom checkers can be helpful. HOWEVER, online searches are never a substitute for talking to a health care professional.