Googling for diagnosis

July 25, 2007

Most of the surveys about health and Internet reveal that Internet users seek health information using search engines. Well sometimes I have finished my posts about this issue saying further research is needed so I would like to share some scientific research, I have been reading, published by BMJ and done by Tang, H.; Ng, J.H.K. Googling for a diagnosis—use of Google as a diagnostic aid: internet based study.

Objective To determine how often searching with Google (the most popular search engine on the world wide web) leads doctors to the correct diagnosis. Design Internet based study using Google to search for diagnoses; researchers were blind to the correct diagnoses. Setting One year’s (2005) diagnostic cases published in the case records of the New England Journal of Medicine. Cases 26 cases from the New England Journal of Medicine; management cases were excluded. Main outcome measure Percentage of correct diagnoses from Google searches (compared with the diagnoses as published in the New England Journal of Medicine). Results Google searches revealed the correct diagnosis in 15 (58%, 95% confidence interval 38% to 77%) cases. Conclusion As internet access becomes more readily available in outpatient clinics and hospital wards, the web is rapidly becoming an important clinical tool for doctors. The use of web based searching may help doctors to diagnose difficult cases.

I also recommend the reading of the related articles and the discussion at BMJ. Those researchers help us to a better understand of how people use technology. This should be the first step to analyse the social consequences of Health and the Internet in the Network Society.