Googling medical symptoms may no longer convince you that you’re dying

Ars Technica – by Beth Mole

If you ask the Internet what’s wrong with you when you’re not feeling well, it’s bound to break the news that you’ve probably got cancer or perhaps some rare, terminal disease. It doesn’t matter that you just have a mundane, generic symptom. You likely only have a few months left and you should start getting your affairs in order. Sincere condolences, poor Internet user.

With the Web brimming with such bum medical advice—alarming patients and irking doctors worldwide—Google is now rolling out new search tools to try to strip away the medical malarkey or at least shove it down deep in search results.  

In the next few days, the Internet giant will be adding in new digital cards that should pop up above common results when you search for terms like “stomach ache” and “skin rash.” The cards are said to contain accurate medical information about common ailments, created with the help of doctors from Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic.

Google reports that about one percent of user searches are health-related queries. To match that usage, Google said it has created millions of digital cards for a wide variety of medical conditions.

For now, Google will be rolling out the symptom search cards only in the US in English on iOS and Android apps, plus in search results on mobile phones and tablets. The feature will later be added to desktop browsers and be made available in more languages.

Some doctors are already looking forward to the new feature. “A lot of times, what people find scares the daylights out of them,” Wanda Filer, a family physician and president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, who was not involved with the google project, told the Wall Street Journal. “So if these Google cards can add context, that’s going to help doctors and patients out tremendously.”

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