Doctors Can Google Tough Cases

Credit: Darren Hester/MorgueFile (Image credit: Darren Hester/MorgueFile)

When stumped with an ailment they can't diagnose, doctors can turn to the Internet search engine Google.

Using three to five search terms from 26 diagnostic cases from the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers did a Google search to see what kind of diagnosis they could get.

Google searches found the correct diagnoses in 15 of the cases,  the researchers write in this week’s issue of the British Medical Journal.

It’s estimated that doctors carry close to two million facts in their head to aid them in analyzing ills. However, with the ever expanding pool of medical knowledge, the task grows ever more challenging.

“Our study suggests that in difficult diagnostic cases, it is often useful to Google for a diagnosis,” the researchers note.  Arguably, everything could be found on the web if only one knew the correct search terms. Therefore, Google searches by a “human expert,” such as a doctor, have a better yield.

Sara Goudarzi
Sara Goudarzi is a Brooklyn writer and poet and covers all that piques her curiosity, from cosmology to climate change to the intersection of art and science. Sara holds an M.A. from New York University, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, and an M.S. from Rutgers University. She teaches writing at NYU and is at work on a first novel in which literature is garnished with science.