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Thursday 24th May 2018

Google helps doctors diagnose

10th November 2006

Using internet search engine Google can help doctors diagnose tricky cases, researchers have said.

A team of Australian doctors Googled the symptoms of 26 cases for a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. In 15 cases, the web search came up with the right diagnosis, the paper published on the British Medical Journal website reports.

The authors say Google can be a "useful aid", but UK experts said the internet was no replacement for doctors.

Google is the most popular search engine on the web, with access to more than three billion medical articles - and searching for health information is one of the most common uses of the web.

In each of the 26 cases studied, researchers based at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane selected three to five search terms from each case and did a Google search without knowing the correct diagnoses.

They then recorded the three diagnoses that were ranked most prominently and selected the one which seemed most relevant to the signs.

The doctors then compared the results with the correct diagnoses as published in the journal. Google searches found the correct diagnosis in just over half of the cases.

These included (CJD) Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the hormonal condition Cushing's syndrome and the auto-immune disorder Churg-Strauss syndrome.

The team led by Dr Hangwi Tang, a respiratory and sleep physician, said Google could be a "useful aid" diagnosing for conditions with unique symptoms and signs that can easily be used as search terms.

But they said a successful search needed a "human expert" user, and therefore patients would have less success trying to diagnose themselves on the internet.

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