In this day and age, the Internet is the first source of health care information for the vast majority of patients. But the problem with searching for health information over the Internet is the same problem that arises with any Internet search: Queries turn up a lot of information and it’s hard to sort the good from the bad, the valid from the invalid.
Google is acknowledging the digital transformation in how patients inform their health decisions with a new offering that pledges to deliver search results with medically relevant information already reviewed by doctors for medical accuracy. Google calls its new offering “Knowledge Graph.”
“We’ll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is – whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what age it affects, and more,” Google product manager Prem Ramaswami explains in a blog post.
Knowledge Graph has not been completely welcomed by all doctors. Some physicians feel that an Internet search could lead people to do more self diagnosis – an action that could lead to misdiagnosis by patients untrained in assessing medical symptoms. Dana Simpler, a physician in private practice, tells MedPage Today that she welcomes patients gaining more information. But she does not want patients to do self-treatment based on an Internet search.
“What may seem like an innocuous symptom to a lay person could be a big red flag to a seasoned practitioner,” Simpler says.
Google seems to understand the physician concerns, and the company is careful to explain that it has no intention of replacing doctors. The search company says that after getting basic info from a search, patients should find it easier to conduct research, or to know what questions to ask a doctor.
“What we present is intended for informational purposes only – and you should always consult a healthcare professional if you have a medical concern,” Ramaswami says.
What Google is offering is medically vetted health information through Internet search. While this capability won’t replace the treatment that medical professionals offer, it should mean that people come to their doctors as more informed and empowered patients.
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