Google improves its medical symptoms search results

(NEW YORK) — Google has improved its symptoms-searching capabilities for the millions of people turning to the internet to diagnose their health conditions.

The new algorithm gives users a list of related conditions when they search their medical symptoms. Google will also give an overview description for individual symptoms and self-treatment options, the tech giant explained in a blog post. Medical terminology is also translated into simpler terms for non-health professionals to understand.

“We know that people are searching for their medical symptoms on Google, so we wanted to provide people with clear and useful information about possible conditions to explain their symptoms,” a spokesperson for Google told ABC News.

“For example, you can type in ‘my tummy hurts,’ and don’t need to know that doctors usually refer to that as abdominal pain. We then combine that with specific and high quality medical knowledge from our ‘Knowledge Graph’ that we built with the help of doctors, including the Mayo Clinic,” a Google spokesperson said. “The way we build the condition lists is a new algorithm but does not alter search results in any way.”

The feature is currently only available in English in the U.S. on the Google app for Android and iOS and on the mobile web, according to Google. The company plans to add the feature internationally in time.

In a statement, the Mayo Clinic said the information provided by Google “is not intended to be medical advice or a diagnostic tool, and it is presented for informational purposes only.”

“Google worked with teams of physicians to review individual symptom information, and expert clinicians at Mayo Clinic evaluated related conditions for a representative sample of searches to help improve Google’s lists,” according to Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Paul A. Testa, a chief medical information officer at the NYU Langone Medical Center, told ABC News that Google’s new search tool “is an absolute step in the right direction.”

“This only improves what people are already doing,” Testa said. “It is curated so we know they are not off on some random blog that has an agenda.”

Testa emphasized though that Google cannot replace a doctor.

“Where it could go wrong is when people defer medical care because they feel comforted,” Testa explained. “Machines don’t diagnosis people, doctors and people diagnosis people, but this improves information.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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