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New Google symptom search might actually tell you what’s wrong with you

Google's symptom search
Google’s symptom search

We’ve all searched Google for symptoms of how sick we were feeling at any particular point in time, I know I have, and ended up being told I’ve needed to have my leg  amputated after searching “leg pain in lower foot arch.”

Google knows their medical searches are huge and have taken a step to refine them. Veronica Pinchin, Product Manager said in blog:

Roughly 1 percent of searches on Google (think: millions!) are symptom-related. But health content on the web can be difficult to navigate, and tends to lead people from mild symptoms to scary and unlikely conditions, which can cause unnecessary anxiety and stress.

So starting in the coming days, when you ask Google about symptoms like “headache on one side,” we’ll show you a list of related conditions (“headache,” “migraine,” “tension headache,” “cluster headache,” “sinusitis,” and “common cold”). For individual symptoms like “headache,” we’ll also give you an overview description along with information on self-treatment options and what might warrant a doctor’s visit. By doing this, our goal is to help you to navigate and explore health conditions related to your symptoms, and quickly get to the point where you can do more in-depth research on the web or talk to a health professional.

We create the list of symptoms by looking for health conditions mentioned in web results, and then checking them against high-quality medical information we’ve collected from doctors for our Knowledge Graph. 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.

She added that as much as the search results have been refined, people should still seek expert medical care if they don’t feel well, and not rely on their search findings as these are only helping to narrow down what COULD be wrong with them, based on expert data collected from common searches.

Why is MayoClinic getting priority over other health sites? Well, in February last year Google had partnered with its doctors to gather information around some major symptoms to improve health searches. Prem Ramaswami, Google’s Product Manager around that partnership had said that it had taken time to collect information on certain symptoms using medical doctors at Google itself and those at Mayo Clinic. That’s why every time you searched for  a symptom you’ve been seeing an expanded box with a Mayo Clinic link as the first option in your search:

leg pain symptom search


This update will start being rolled out on Google’s mobile platform in the USA first and then later internationally.


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