Google could help diagnose difficult medical cases
Nov 12, 2006, 18:02
Internet search engine Google could help physicians facing problems in diagnosing difficult cases, says a new study.
Doctors have been estimated to carry two million facts in their heads to help them diagnose illness, but with medical knowledge expanding rapidly, even this may not be enough. Google is the most popular search engine on the world wide web, giving users quick access to more than three billion medical articles.
Doctors at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, Australia, identified 26 difficult diagnostic cases published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2005. They included conditions such as Cushing's syndrome - a hormonal disorder, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - a fatal brain disorder.
They selected three-to-five search terms from each case and did a Google search while being blind to the correct diagnoses, reported Newswise wire.
They then selected and recorded the three diagnoses that were ranked most prominently and seemed to fit the symptoms and signs, and compared the results with the correct diagnoses as published in the journal.
Google searches found the correct diagnosis in 15 (58 percent) of the cases, said the study published in the online edition of the British Medical Journal.
The researchers suggested that Google could be a useful aid for conditions with unique symptoms and signs that can easily be used as search terms.
However, they stressed that the efficiency of the search and the usefulness of the retrieved information depend on the searchers' knowledge base.
Doctors and patients are increasingly using the Internet to search for health related information, and useful information on the rarest of medical syndromes can now be found within a matter of minutes, said the study.
'Our study suggests that in difficult diagnostic cases, it is often useful to google for a diagnosis.'
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