We’ve all done it: felt an ache or pain and then searched the Web to self-diagnose; or heard about a spreading health concern and looked for information and potential symptoms to see if we’re at risk. Google knows this to be true: health-related searches are among the most common overall (every 1 in 20 searches!).
The main problem we’ve also all experienced is results can be varied, potentially untrustworthy, and ultimately misleading, especially if you’re easily susceptible to suggestion or automatically associate something like mild neck pain with very serious meningitis (Yes, that’s me; I blame a college horror story!).
Google wants to help us cut through the medical clutter and gain a solid base understanding by highlighting trusted data in an efficient way. That’s resulted in quality, curated information about many of the most common or trending health conditions (with more being added regularly) appearing in teal boxes to the right of your usual search results.
“We worked with a team of medical doctors (led by our own Dr. Kapil Parakh, M.D., MPH, Ph.D.) to carefully compile, curate, and review this information. All of the gathered facts represent real-life clinical knowledge from these doctors and high-quality medical sources across the web, and the information has been checked by medical doctors at Google and the Mayo Clinic for accuracy.”
Let’s use that meningitis fear as an example. Here’s what you get—including an explanation of who’s most at risk, how it spreads, the symptoms, and treatments. There’s even a handy PDF download of the findings if you’d like to reference it later, or show someone.
Just think of the cross-referencing time and confusion saved during potentially stressful moments. Hooray!
Now, these new search results can’t actually prevent Cyberchondria—the unfounded escalation of concerns about common symptomology based on review of search results and literature online. That’s the very real, digital extension of hypochondria. But everyone who searches symptoms to self-diagnose is at risk of being led toward incorrect information. Now, you can rest easy knowing key details have been fact-checked.
Of course, this is not official person-specific medical advice. Schedule an appointment if you’re concerned about something. Get checked regularly. But when you turn to the Web, know Google’s doctors have your back!