Tech

Google just made it even easier to get paranoid about your health

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David Cornish
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It's still there. Throbbing away behind your left eye.

You'd call it a headache, but that would be a disservice to the pain coursing through your skull. You're pretty certain you can feel something inside your head. It's probably a tumour, right? You're probably about to die. This is it. This is what's going to finish you off.

Given that you live in a nation with free healthcare of the highest quality, you do what any normal individual would do: you fire up Google, slap in your symptoms and hit 'Search'.

Sound familiar? You're not alone in seeking out the advice of Dr Google: the company believes that around one percent of all search traffic are related to health symptoms - millions upon millions of people are turning to a search engine every day, trying to find out if they're going to die. 

Google wants to help. In the next few days, it will be rolling out a new feature to the Google Search app that draws in concise, helpful health results to appear at the top of all symptom searches. Input a search such as "headache on one side" and it'll display a list of related conditions ("headache", "migraine", "tension headache", "cluster headache", "sinusitis", and "common cold").

Google isn't pulling in details from any old amateur with a blog on the health benefits of eating grass and nuts: "We create the list of symptoms by looking for health conditions mentioned in web results, and then checking them against high-quality medical information we’ve collected from doctors for our Knowledge Graph.

"We worked with a team of medical doctors to carefully review the individual symptom information, and experts at Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic evaluated related conditions for a representative sample of searches to help improve the lists we show."

The point should be stressed that a Google search doesn't offer the same accuracy as going to a doctor for an assessment of your symptoms. Google emphasises that this is for "informational purposes only". No search engine will replicate the process of a qualified, experienced doctor examining you in person. 

You can expect the new Symptoms feature to roll out in the next few days, starting in the US before going worldwide. Which is good news - we've been wondering what this rash might be a sign of...

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David Cornish

Shortlist.com’s esteemed Tech Editor. David has a keen interest in video games, Star Wars and stuff that runs on batteries.

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