Google is adding a new health search results feature. Whenever you search for a symptom or multiple symptoms of an illness, Google will show you a list of possibly related health conditions related to your query to get you to answers more quickly.
In a blog post announcing the new feature, Google used the example search of [abdominal pain on my right side] to show how the feature will work. Google said the list, which appears over Google’s organic results, is algorithmically generated based on an analysis of pages across the web – it’s not written by doctors or medical experts.
With the rise of the web, people have increasingly turned to search engines to answer medical questions. Eight out of 10 Internet users look for health information online, making it the third most popular online activity (behind email and using a search engine), according to a Pew Research Center report.
The big question is whether Google’s new health suggestions will actually help people in need, or whether it could possibly steer them in the wrong direction toward a misdiagnosis. It’s also hard to tell thus far what types of sites Google is relying on to generate this information – would you trust Wikipedia or the Mayo Clinic more as the top source to diagnose why you have a rash, fever, and a headache?