Google, the world’s default online search engine, will now start fact-checking health related searches.
Google search may be used extensively to answer a variety of queries, but one of the most common reasons for which people increasingly refer to the search engine is seeking medical advice. However, Dr. Google has always been a bit of a quack, which doled out ever-shoddier medical advice with every passing search result. You could be searching symptoms of a rash and would invariably end up being convinced you had some sort of cancer.
Fortunately, the search engine is trying to bring some much-needed validity to the world of health-related searches. A new database of 400 commonly searched medical conditions that have been extensively fact-checked by doctors at the Mayo Clinic has been added to the search repository. Google announced the news Tuesday, saying that it will now place these pre-vetted facts at the top of its routine search results, in the hopes of getting people to the right and hopefully non-alarming information faster. Speaking about the endeavor, Google product manager Prem Ramaswami said as follows.
“Once you get this basic info from Google, you should find it easier to do more research on other sites around the web, or know what questions to ask your doctor.”
Seeking medical information and self-diagnosing has become a very common task while online. According to Google, one in 20 searches on its search engine is about some health-related issue. The search results henceforth will include things like symptoms and treatments for a given condition, as well as information on how critical, contagious, and common it is. Google’s Vice President of Search, Amit Singhal, confirmed that an average of 11 doctors had vetted each fact for all 400 conditions, adding the following.
“And this is just a start.”
Though these results are currently available only in the U.S., Google plans to expand its results to other conditions and to other countries soon. Singhal adds that access to medical information online is often much more critical because access to healthcare is so limited. He must be referring to third-world countries, where access to health-care facilities is limited or far-off. In these regions, being able to quickly diagnose and administer first-aid could mean the difference of life and death.
“When you’re a parent in India or Brazil or sub-Saharan Africa, and your child is sick and all you might have for help is your smartphone, this information might really matter.”
As searching for medical advice is increasingly being done on the internet, Google is perhaps a little sluggish to have thought of offering doctor-verified facts. Nonetheless, it is certainly a step in the right direction to offer verified information to health related queries. What more information can Google pre-verify?
[Image Credit: Talk Android]