Google Launches New Feature to Give Better Medical Advice

It doesn't want to keep scaring users with unreliable search results
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2016 5:25 PM CDT
Google Launches New Feature to Give Better Medical Advice
"Dear Google, why do I get the hiccups when I see the color orange? Please don't be cancer."   (Shutterstock)

You know how it is: You wake up with a sore throat, then after five minutes of googling, you're convinced you have super-Ebola. Well, Google wants to do something about that. Consumerist reports the company is launching a "Symptom Search" feature this week to give better medical advice. The feature allows users to put in a symptom then get a list of conditions related to that symptom, as well as more information about the symptom and possible treatments, according to Google. “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.”

Google admits that it currently doesn't work very well for diagnosing health problems, which is an issue when 1% of all searches are about symptoms, USA Today reports. Google says searching under the old system “tends to lead people from mild symptoms to scary and unlikely conditions, which can cause unnecessary anxiety and stress.” Ateev Mehrotra at Harvard Medical School calls this cyberchondria. That's why Google worked with health professionals to get the best results with its Symptom Search. Still, the results are "intended for informational purposes only," and users should see a doctor before jumping to any conclusions regarding their health. Symptom Search will be available on the Google app. (More Google stories.)

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