Got a headache? Tell Dr. Google

The Internet giant has worked with US physicians to make an analysis of the related symptoms and suggest the aim of offering a “high-quality medical information” for diseases.


Google has announced that it is preparing an application to list the possible diseases that may be related when users enter a symptom of health in the search bar. The purpose of this feature, only available so far in the US, is to prevent patients visiting unreliable or very complex terms pages.

Google has worked on this project with doctors from the Faculty of Medicine at Harvard and the Mayo Clinic in the United States to make an analysis of the most common symptoms and review all information to be associated with each, with the goal of providing “high-quality medical information.”

Veronica Pinchin, product manager of the company, explained from now “when someone searches for symptoms such as ‘headache’ users get a list of related disorders (migraine, tension headache, sinusitis or colds)”.

Also, a description of it will also be offered and will include information on the possibilities of self-help or in what cases it is preferable to seek medical advice.

According to stats, about 1 percent of the searches are related to health symptoms but sometimes, users are often “overwhelmed by complex medical concepts” that can generate them “unnecessary anxiety or stress.” It also clarifies that the aim of this initiative is “for informational purposes only” and “should always consult with doctor for a diagnosis.”
Family physicians see no evil the latest initiative, because it is a form of “channel” searches to more reliable information.

“People now go to ‘doctor’ Google and select the website that they want, at least the search will point users better,” said Fernando Alonso the spokesperson of the Europe Press Group Systems information of the Society of family and Community Medicine (semFYC), which brings together more than 19,500 family doctors.

Dr. Alonso López acknowledges that Google searches on health symptoms that many patients already “come to consultations with printed pages on what they have found, sometimes with the strangest ideas.”

The function, which is in test even if Google intends to extend it to other languages and countries, can help patients to be better informed and “avoid stress or false beliefs.” “They’re going to keep looking on the internet when you pass something, but it is achieved that the information they receive is advised by professionals of prestige”, he explained.

Dr. Alonso Lopez sees no inconvenience with the idea of adding treatments or self-care alternatives for each symptom either, “Whenever general notions are not bad”.

In any case, he does not believe that this measure should replace medical advice. Similarly he believes that regardless of this measure, the key is to promote health policies to “empower” patients and make them more active and become more informed about self-care, especially in the case of those with some chronic diseases.

Patients against
In contrast, the president of the Platform for Patients’ Organisations, Tomas Castillo, Europe’s Press has recognised that this tool can “induce many errors” among users as there are common symptoms in very different pathologies.

“You can generate more stress than remove it, there will be many false diagnoses or others who are exaggerated. There isn’t progress as we have to reduce anxiety” has defended Castillo, who discourages patients who come to Internet to search for information without first going to the doctor.

In fact, criticises the tool “this can not be equated with the security and experience provided by the health professionals” and recalls that the Platform defends the creation of a law that protects patients’ right to accurate information “that allows them to know the real extent of the disease.”