So you have an itch. That itch turns into a bump. That bump turns into a nasty rash and all of a sudden you’re freaking out. You can’t get an appointment with the doctor for another four days, so you ask Google: “Why do I have a big red rash on my upper arm?”
WebMD shows up as the first result, giving you your options: 1. Herpes. 2. Genital Warts.
Happily, Google wants to help change that for you.
They’re improving symptom search on the platform to make it much more accurate, and much less scary. It’s aiming to make real medical information more accessible to users, too.
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Veronica Pinchin, a product manager on Google’s search team, told Vox the search engine has been working with doctors so “fewer unnecessarily scary conditions show up.”
When searching for a popular symptom, “headache behind eye”, WebMd shows up with 150 different causes for the ailment. But the new symptom search is making this list much more concise: providing summaries of why this might be happening to you in plain English. Here’s what the feature looks like:
In other words, searching your headache symptoms might actually calm you down rather than convince you that you have a brain tumor. Of course, the main things we search for are the embarrassing medical ailments that we can’t bring ourselves to talk about with a doctor.
Veronica Pinchin, a product manager on Google’s search team, told Vox that “if someone comes to Google and searches ‘my tummy aches,’ we can interpret and understand what that means in medical language. ‘My tummy hurts’ to doctors means abdominal pain.”
Searching your symptoms can be terrifying, and in a country where a trip to the doctor can cost you hundreds of dollars, we self-diagnose all the time, even though we know it isn’t accurate.
Hopefully, this will actually give us some accurate diagnoses. And maybe even calm us down.