Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Google Medicine

Google Used To Diagnose Disease 167

Posted by Zonk
from the jack-was-using-google-on-wednesday dept.
dptalia writes "About 20% of all diseases are misdiagnosed, a percentage that has remained steady since the 1930s. However, scientists have discovered that by inputting the key symptoms into Google they can get the correct diagnosis about 58% of the time. For rare and unusual diseases, this provides doctors the information they need to get a correct cure. Of course, Google is only as good as its knowledge base, and its users, so this isn't a cure for everything."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Google Used To Diagnose Disease

Comments Filter:
  • by epsalon (518482) * <slash@alon.wox.org> on Saturday November 11, 2006 @05:48AM (#16803750) Homepage Journal
    What the blurb doesn't say, how much of the 58% google gets right overlaps with the 20% doctors get wrong, if at all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What the blurb doesn't say, how much of the 58% google gets right overlaps with the 20% doctors get wrong, if at all.

      The blurb isn't much to begin with - it is only 28 cases that were difficult to diagnose.

      Even so, there isn't much information about the 28 cases. Were those 28 cases all misdiagnosed at one point, or were only 20% of them were issues? Also, how accurate are search engines on correctly diagnosed diseases?

      The internet is useful in picking up diseases with a unique symptom, but is less effect

    • by snarkh (118018) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @06:21AM (#16803884)

      Don't get too excited about these numbers. The whole study is based on 26 examples.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by i kan reed (749298)
        As long as it was a random sample, that still is perfectly valid with a sufficient margin of error and certainty interval. Bigger samples are necessary when you want to prove a relationship, not for demonstrating that there might be one.
        • by snarkh (118018)

          What are you talking about? Stantard deviation is going to be on the order of 1 over sqrt(n), which is approximately 20%.
    • That's what I was wondering. I'd much rather have a doctor misdiagnose on his own 20% of the time, than misdiagnose thanks to Google 42% of the time.

      I'm all for having doctors with more information at their fingertips to help with their diagnosis, but that's just a silly comparison. Especially with so few cases.

    • Silly statistics biased by observer error. Cleraly they did no weight their queries by the probability of a patient showing up with a given disease. If you are sick, then statistically, you have a cold in nearly all of cases of sickness. Therefore if, no matter what your symtoms were, I were to guess you had a cold, then I'd be able to correctly diagnose most patients. Instead they probably weighed all diseases uniformly.

      Second, I would assume they always inputted the right symptoms and signs. But how

  • So the conclusion is: Google performs worse than docters. And that was using input from trained doctors. Is it a slow news day or is it time again to boost Google's stock value?
    • No... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tkrotchko (124118) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @06:56AM (#16804022) Homepage
      The write-up is a bit funny and misleading.

      It's saying of the 20% that's mis-diagnosed, Google correctly identified 58% of those.

      However, what no one has brought up is that when something is misdiagnosed, no one knows until they do the autopsy, so you can't just do simple math to lower the error rate to 8%. As you suggest, while google does better when the doctor is wrong, Google is worse than the doctor when he's correct. I'm not sure it's even correct to assume that if the doctor used Google the diagnoses would be better or worse, since there is an element of human judgment in medical practice.

      What is does suggest is that doctors and patients should consider using Google to do a check on their patients and themselves for diagnosis and treatment options.

      • by udderly (890305) *
        Exactly. But it has long been known that expert + reference > expert or reference. How many of us use references everyday? I've reached the age where learning anything new requires that I forget a commensurate about of information, so I use references everyday. On my desk this morning:
        SAMBA Essentials for Windows Administrators
        RedHat 8 Linux Bible
        Programming Python

        And Heaven knows how much info I will Google today...
    • by hey! (33014)
      It would have done better, except that it comes up with susbtance abuse disorder ("smoking crack") so often.
  • by mnmn (145599) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @05:49AM (#16803756) Homepage
    There should be a global wiki for medical professionals searchable by symptoms.

    The contribution weight of better/senior/more respected doctors should be higher compared to new graduates. The wide open public should not be allowed to write, but should be allowed to read it.

    This way better healthcare will be available in poor countries with Internet access, people will be able to double-check their diagnosis online and better doctors will be able to make a name for themselves the way CowboyNeal has.
    • This way better healthcare will be available in poor countries with Internet access
      and who happen to not only read English and Latin, but also have a fairly broad knowledge of human anatomy. Oh, and they need to know the English/Latin anatomy terms and names.
      • by Ragzouken (943900)
        Have you ever been to Wikipedia? It's in more than one language.
    • by nospam007 (722110)
      >The contribution weight of better/senior/more respected doctors should be higher compared to new graduates.
      --
      I see. The docs will get mod^h^h^hrespect points to give to their peers?
      Or is it just the more senile they are the more respect they get?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 11, 2006 @10:57AM (#16805186)
      It's called http://pubmed.com/ [pubmed.com] and I use it all the time in exactly the same way. Google is my second choice. You can't practice medicine without internet access now.

      ASO, MD
      Neurology
      • by espressojim (224775) <eris@NOsPam.tarogue.net> on Saturday November 11, 2006 @11:58AM (#16805634)
        A few of my friends and I (are we're all in the biology field in some degree, as researchers) refuse to use doctors who don't know what the internet is. I'm glad you do, but it is sad when you talk to a doctor about some large issue you have, and the doctor doesn't know about/use the internet to make sure they're aware of all the treatment issues.

        One of the most interesting cases in our group was a friend who had osteonecrosis in one of his knees. Some of the doctors he went to weren't keeping up with modern practice, and they recommended full knee replacements. He finally found a younger doctor who was up to date, and the surgery he had involved boring small holes into his knee, so that blood would enter those areas and rebuild the bone there.

        The surgery was a complete success, my friend didn't need an artificial knee (at age 30!), and now he's perfectly healthy. The recovery time for the new surgery was much lower, and it was an all around good solution.
        • by spineboy (22918) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @02:38PM (#16806716) Journal
          These lesions usually spontaneously resolve, or can be treated with bisphosphonates (osteoporosis meds) and a bone stimulator. Surgical drilling has not been shown to affect the outcome. The fact that your friends knees became better probably had nothing to do with the surgery. Knee replacements are indicated when the osteonecrosis leads to collapse of the knee joint, usually in large lesions. Since your friend is young, a total knee replacement would not be the preferred treatment - an osteotomy (cutting the bone to change the knee alignment and weight bearing area) would be the preferred treatment.

          -Francis C. MD
          Dept. Musculoskeletal Oncology, Orthopaedic Surgery.
        • A mistake that patients and other laypeople commonly make is to think that their search is just as good as the doctor's. It isn't. An untrained individual (patient, curious person, whoever) using Internet resources to gather information about their real or perceived diagnosis usually ends up barking up the wrong tree. I see it all the time in my patients. I warn them about it and still they make this mistake. I deal with rare diseases, the 20% that are usually diagnosed wrong. Trust me, Google by itself or any other internet resource doesn't do you any good if you don't know EXACTLY what the key symptoms are. And selecting those is not something an amateur can do. So you can go on and tell me about how you corrected your doctor and beat the medical establishment and crap like that, but at least for the kind of disorder discussed here (IPEX and family) you as an amateur would not arrive at that diagnosis. And oh, Google is not the best resource for medical type searches. Try Pubmed, or OMIM, or if you're really serious (IPEX is an X-linked disorder caused by FOXP3 mutations) use the London Dysmorphology Database (LDDB). Amateurs should NOT, I repeat NOT, try to diagnose their own diseases. They simply lack the background to judge their own symptoms.
      • In that case, why not spinoff a reated venture called One Laptop Per Doctor? It isn't of much use to doctors int he third world unless they have a computer and net access.
    • I've seen a similar thing in an electronics repair shop, where there'd be a cd and you typed in the model number of a tv, vcr, stereo, what not, and it would list the typical symptoms that others have sent in - such as check diode D129, or capacitor near the power supply is prone to be defective - and oftentime just stepping through these things listed would yield the answer to a problem. If they found something new not listed in the answers, it was a good idea to send it back to the cd distributor, after a
    • by milamber3 (173273)
      If you have access to a computer at a hospital or university I suggest you try a website called uptodate.com It does require having a subscription but most medical centers already have one. This is very close to what you are asking for in your comment and it is very useful to doctors around the world.
    • by vishbar (862440)
      Vandalism?

      When you vandalize wikipedia, an elementary school kid gets something wrong on his paper. When you vandalize MediWiki, a doctor gives a patient 300cc's of anaesthetic too much--and ends up having a very stiff, very dead dude on his operating table.
  • I would prefer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Timesprout (579035) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @05:52AM (#16803768)
    If there was a publically available performance/competency grade for doctors online so I could just google for a good doctor in my area rather than hoping some med student hits paydirt with an 'I feel lucky search'
    • by Tim C (15259)
      The UK government has been pushing for choice for a while, in healthcare and schooling. Personally, I don't want to be able to choose, I want to be offered the best possible standard wherever I happen to go/send my child...
      • by Rich0 (548339)
        Perhaps if people were able to choose then doctors would have incentive to take the time to provide good service? Staying up on the latest literature takes work - it is much easier to just go into work, see patients, and collect a paycheck. Nobody pays doctors to take the time to care. I was amazed when I had a talk with a doctor in a hospital who was consulting with a friend and they were able to coherently explain the pros and cons of various diabetes treatments rather than just prescribe whatever the
    • Man: Doctor, it hurts when I do this.

      Doctor: Hang on. (types, waits, wrinkles his brow) Um, don't do that.

  • Good luck (Score:5, Funny)

    by Shados (741919) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @05:57AM (#16803788)
    Good luck finding any cure for anything even remotly related to female anatomy. "Hi miss. I currently can't help you diagnose your symptoms right now, as I left my credit card at home and its required to validate that I am old enough to access my.....references...."
    • by fbjon (692006)
      Not quite; "vagina" is rarely used in porn contexts, so a search for e.g. "vaginal cancer" yields perfectly representable results.
  • Gives you ideas (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 16K Ram Pack (690082) <tim,almond&gmail,com> on Saturday November 11, 2006 @05:58AM (#16803796) Homepage
    The key thing is that Google gives you ideas on how to solve the problem.

    I had a long term and quite painful medical problem to do with the eustation tube in my ear being blocked. The doctors, and even the ENT specialist didn't really have much of a clue. We tried steroids (that helped a little), pinching the nose and blowing, decongestants and all sorts.

    What Google did for me was to keep going back to doctors with "would xxxx work?". It got me prompting them. Eventually, I tried out some massage, which someone had recommended on groups (that Google found) as a way to relieve the tension. And met a massage therapist who applied some Bowen Technique which solved the problem (the jaw alignment was out after dental work).

    I wouldn't use Google alone, but sometimes, doctors don't think of everything. Some of their suggestions were little more than "switch it off and on again".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kentrel (526003)
      Considering that the majority, if not all of Osteopathy is a pseudoscience and treatments like Bowen technique are unproven it's no surprise your doctor wouldn't recommend it. I'd question any doctor who would.
      • by Knuckles (8964)
        Seriously, this only attests to the limits of science.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by 16K Ram Pack (690082)
        My doctor didn't recommend Bowen.

        Did Bowen work for me? Yes. Absolutely. Has it been scientifically tested? No (although there is some testing being done now).

        Before doing my Bowen, I was struggling to concentrate. I would fall asleep at about 8pm, be grumpy with my family because of the discomfort. Afterwards, I functioned much better. Where my ear had not been secreting wax, it started doing so.

      • Considering that the majority, if not all of Osteopathy is a pseudoscience and treatments like Bowen technique are unproven it's no surprise your doctor wouldn't recommend it. I'd question any doctor who would.

        yeah, because things that are 'unproven' don't work. right?

        Osteopathy fixed my creaky TMJ (jaw joint) when nothing else did (not even Bowen). Osteopathic Manipulation's usefulness has been proven to the people who use it [osteohome.com] day-in and day-out, and to the patients who experience the 'magic'. In Spontane [amazon.com]
        • I think western medicine has problems, too.

          You're destroying your credibility by intentionally misspelling "medical" and "doctor".
    • As a physician who specializes in difficult cases, maybe I can provide a slightly different perspective: What Google has done with Google Scholar has been to incorporate the PUBMED database (a database of all scholarly journals) as well as the database of OMIM (a database of inherited diseases) into its search protocol. Physicains (including myself) often will use the above two databases for aiding in the diagnosis of specific disease. You will also notice that the proper use of terminology helps (for e
      • Thanks. I didn't know that.

        Reading around, talking to doctors and the ENT, I got the impression that eustation problems are a bit of a nightmare. That the area around the jaw, eustation, ear etc. are very tight, and inaccessible so diagnosis is extremely difficult.

    • by DeadChobi (740395)
      That sucks way worse than my problem. I have tiny ear canals that always fill up with wax. I had to go to the campus doctor just this quarter to have an impaction removed, and she said that I really shouldn't have been able to hear out of either ear because there was so much crap in them. Being able to look up search results didn't help me diagnose it, because I've had the problem many times. It did, however, give me enough information to listen to the doctor and make a few treatment suggestions. At one poi
  • "Google is only as good as it's knowledge base, and it's users, so this isn't a cure for everything."

    It might not cure everything, but how does Google fare as a cure for the common cold?
  • misgivings... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MollyB (162595)
    I can think of two somewhat trivial reasons why this could be bad medicine:

    Latent Hypochondriacs will type in some general symptoms and find that they have the dreaded newest and hippest malady. I foresee needless worrying and driven-up-the-wall family members.

    If Google Bombs are still extant, what's to stop a special interest group from planting links to "cures" for wildly improbable scenarios?

    "Caveat, surf-or" is never out of style, I s'pose...
  • by Sippan (932861) <sippan@sippan.se> on Saturday November 11, 2006 @06:08AM (#16803824) Homepage
    "For the past 70 years, we used to be wrong only 20% of the time, but now we've discovered a new exciting method which allows us to be wrong 42% of the time!"
  • Diagnosing using other people's reasoning...
    isn't that against the point of a doctor having earned a medical degree.
    Of course Google and any other search engine is an excellent tool for gathering valuable info. And its good as long the doc uses it for scientific facts and figures but its shady to be second -handing off other people's methods. The only way to get a Doctor that isn't prone to consider, for ex, chopping a 2 year old's tonsils out to prevent a tonsilitis that can never happen is to make sure t
  • I have been telling people for a few years now that when the doctor leaves the room after examining you he is googling for a cure to what ails you.

    Most people I told that to thought I was joking.
  • by badfish99 (826052) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @06:16AM (#16803848)
    The article says that the researchers found the correct diagnosis amongst the top 3 found by google in 15 cases out of 26.

    In other words, they took a very tiny sample, and then cherry-picked the good results from the bad ones. There's no mention of any serious statistical analysis (why pick 26 as a sample size? why pick 3 results instead of 4 or 5?). And there's no mention of any "control" experiment (e.g. guessing the answer, or perhaps looking it up in a medical textbook). This is a classic example of how to fit the facts to the desired conclusion.
    • And even then, it's hardly a 'good' result is it?

      What's basically been said is "Google can be used for searching about stuff."
  • ...I understood that among the main reasons why doctors misdiagnose as often as they do is because patients rarely use a precise language for describing their symptoms. Also, virtually all medical tests have a percentage of error. Both of these combine to create a lot of noise in the information the doctors have that they must try to filter through, and unfortunately they are sometimes unsuccessful in deducing what is really happening. Finally, and worst of all, some patients are not always entirely ho

    • I've never understood that. People who won't tell their doctor about a large lump they're embarrassed about where it is. Given the choice between embarrassment and leaving a malignant tumour, I know which I'd pick.
  • Apostrophe abuse (Score:3, Informative)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Saturday November 11, 2006 @06:19AM (#16803874) Journal
    Zonk, this summary abuses apostrophes badly.

    As Dave Barry said, "An apostrophe doesn't mean - Yikes! Look out! Here comes an S".

    Tip: It's means "it is".
    • by jtorkbob (885054)
      Its not like he cares. One thing I can say about getting my news from my local newspaper, at least it's got it's punctuation straight. Duck's in a row, you know?

      Thank's,

      "The Management"
  • by pan-y-vino (903145) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @06:22AM (#16803888)
    I hope this doesn't get modded "Funny" 'cause I assure you it wasn't... I've got irritable bowel syndrome, and I'm a bit of a hypochondriac. OK, so not a "crazy thinking I'm ill ALL the time hypochondriac", but I'm very apprehensive. About a year or so ago I had some symptoms (which I won't describe here for obvious reasons...) and decided to Google for them. I spent about 1 week crying (yes, really crying) thinking I had Colon cancer, and about 1 year more to live or so. It took 3 doctors and all sorts of horrible tests (which I won't describe here either .... for obvious reasons...) for me to realize I was being silly and there wasn't anything wrong with me. I can't imagine what my state of mind would've been if, prior to searching for the symptoms, I'd read this on slashdot... I woulds been even MORE sure that there was a 58% chance I had colon cancer and I might've killed myself... So, if you're even a little apprehensive don't EVER google for your symptoms!
    • Your first error was assuming you would be able to correctly interpret the data you received.
      Data knowledge, that's what doctors study all those years for.

      Second error was not to talk to someone competent about your fears - worries grow if not confronted by reality. I could making jokes about tipping off customs the next time you fly on a plane (so you get it done for free on arrival), but cancer is a serious condition so I won't .

      It is a good idea to clue yourself about what you have, it's a bad idea to
    • OMG!!! 1 hour after posting:

      Score:3, Funny

      You bunch of cruel ***t*rds.
    • well, as you say it was modded funny, which is a tad strange, anywho;

      What you did was right, and maybe it caused you a little worry but it was for the best. Say you had those symptoms and thought (like most people tend to) it'll jkust go away, I'm sure its nothing. Say it had been cancer. By the time you found out it could well have been too late.
      Even though you went through a bad patch, if it had been cancer it would have saved your life

      So you should use it to maybe consult on, but never assume th
    • Whatever you do, don't read the info on Morgellon's syndrome [wikipedia.org], as it's another disease for which most people display the symptoms.

      Actually it's not recognized as a disease at all, as the people who have it can't agree on the symptoms. They claim to have fibres and sometimes small living creatures coming from lesions on their skin. Sometimes the living creatures are able to shape-shift into demons. I'm not making this up.

      They constantly pick at their skin lesions to pull out the fibers, and then surprisingly,

  • I can get a correct diagnosis in 100%. Sometimes.
  • While it is only wrong 42% of the time, which is about half of the time, it's impossible to know when it is right and when it is wrong. As such it is useless 100% of the time. Now a doctor being only wrong 20% of the time is much more useful, as you can assume they're right all the time, and you'll only be wrong 1 in 5 times, which for the mathematically retarded, is better then 1 in 2 times (or 1.16 in 2 times for the pedantic).
  • So is this all saying that incorrect diagnosis happened 20% of the time until the advent of Google, where it jumped to 42%?
    • by Tim C (15259)
      No, they're saying that doctors get it wrong 20% of the time, while a group found that google gets 52% of that 20% right.

      Do you really think doctors spend all their time searching for diagnoses on google?
  • ...that Google has now made Dr. House obsolite? Seriously, that dude is wrong way more than 54% of the time. Then you don't have to put up with the vicious, cutting sarcasm and depressing world view.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The FA gives the impression that they're talking about 58% of difficult illnesses, ie. some of the 20% they don't get right.
  • I kinda hoped doctors had a better shared resource for such things than Google.
  • I'm living in China, and the doctors here have a vested interest in selling me the most expensive drugs they have in stock. If it wasn't for me self-diagnosing with Google, I would have not only spent a ridiculous amount on medicine I don't really need. I would also been unaware that, at least on one occation, the medicine the doctors have convinced me to buy is highly recommended _not_ to be given to people with prior kidney-problems(like myself). I suppose if you live in a country with a decent medical s
  • Damn, my friend is dying, and I need to know how to give him aid!

    "Welcome to MSN Search...here's the way to help someone with this-or-that:[cure]"

    DAMN; my friend died!

    MSN-S: was this information useful to you?

  • by natrius (642724) <niran&niran,org> on Saturday November 11, 2006 @10:22AM (#16804970) Homepage
    I've been using Google to help me diagnose my medical problems about every day for years now. The only problem that I've run into is that at the top of all my results these days, it says "Did you mean hypochondria?"
  • by viewtouch (1479) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @10:34AM (#16805046) Homepage Journal
    This idea, that people can list their symptoms and answer questions about how they feel, and receive a diagnosis from a database, is an idea whose time has come. It offers the opportunity, for the first time, for people to have access to knowledge that they need to understand what might be causing ill health, pain and suffering. This opportunity also allows for people to provide information back to the database that can be used to improve it.

    It is too often the case that our search for information about alleviating our ill health, diseases, disorders and pain is limited by the amount of money that we have to give to doctors and hospitals. It is too often that the doctors themselves are wrong when diagnosing the causes of our symptoms. It is too often that doctors fail to learn from the mistakes they make when attempting to diagnose ill health and diseases.

    It is time for people to be given a mechanism to empower them in the search for good health, a mechanism that does not depend upon how much money they have with which to purchase the opinions of doctors, one which can be improved as it is used.

    In virtually every area of human knowledge we recognize that software and databases are used to do jobs that no single person could possibly be able to do, be expected to do, to do these jobs better than, faster than, and at far less cost than any single person could do them. It's time to accept that this is also true of assisting us in understanding the meaning of the symptoms of our ill health, ill nutrition, pain and suffering.

    There should be no objection by anyone to the idea that it is anyone's basic right to such knowledge, and that the Internet is the ideal method of providing this.
    • Simply plugging in symptoms will rarely get you a definitive diagnosis. Symptoms always have to be taken into context around things like personal medical history, physical exam, and the doctor thinking to ask about questions you might not think relevant. Say one day you have chest pain and trouble breathing. That could be anything from a heart attack, to a pulmonary embolus, to a pneumothorax, a fractured rib, or many other things. Medicine is a tapestry, you can't look at just 1 or 2 strands and expect
  • was hoping Google could help identify a cure, or at least a treatment. So I entered "megalomania" and "politician". Informative, to be sure, but the only effective treatment seems to involve shooting them until they are dead.
  • by syousef (465911) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @10:36AM (#16805060) Journal
    Specialist put her on a drug that caused her ever increasing grand mal seizures. He kept uping the dosage despite seizures being a contra-indication. She started with occassional seizures and progressed to a couple a day. She'd had previously had brain surgery to remove an araknoid cyst some time before and was experiencing petite mal (blank staring) seizures and narcolepsy. (I now suspect that carbonmonoxide poisoning due to a faulty car exhaust was partly to blame and not the brain injury, nor subsequent treatment but the truth is I won't know). Anyway the drug was also killing her personality and making her moody and erratic. Unfortunately coming off the drug immediately leaves patients prone to being suicidal so we had to bring her down over a period of weeks.

    Did the doctor work out what was going on? No the arrogant son of a bitch didn't bother to give the fact that his patient had developed seizures a second thought. Fucker wanted her to stay on the medication. I had googled it, and after we pointed out to him that it was a contraindication and asked to have her come off it for a while, he said okay. Again I'm the one who looked up the fact that suddenly stopping would have made her suicidal.

    Three things were re-enforced for me:
    1) Yes Google is only as good as the researcher. Using Google to find a specialist site is probably one of the better ways to go. Thing is you have to learn some of the lingo and understand what you're seeing. Takes a bit of plugging away to do that.

    2) The medical profession is full of arrogant tossers. The only less practical, more corrupt systems I know of are our legal and political systems. Some doctors are good despite the system. However the system encourages self serving educated idiots who take no interest in themselves (not to mention overworked perpetually tired doctors making life and death decisions). Most doctors don't take kindly to being second guessed, think they know best even when they haven't considered something properly, and think themselves above using technology to diagnose a patient. In the 21st Century the medical profession remains very 16th Century.

    3) Get a good doctor and they make you better. Get a bad one and they'll take a minor problem you have and kill you with their incorrect treatment. It is entirely possible to know better than your doctor. In that case you still do need someone medically trained. Get a second or third opinion. Your life can depend on it.

    She was deteriorating so quickly that I have no doubt whatsoever that had I not worked out what was wrong with my fiancee she'd have been dead within about 6 months from the time I did work it out (if not sooner). Having a search engine there to be able to research her condition was literally a life saver. Google happened to be king of the hill at the time.
    • Most doctors don't take kindly to being second guessed, think they know best even when they haven't considered something properly

      I have a similar story to share.

      My dad recently told me that after WW2 (he was 12 then), he got some serious abdominal pains. My grandpa called the doctor on a Sunday, who told him to 'give him an aspirine and put him to bed'. My grandfather refused and insisted, even yelled, to get the man to come around. Turns out it my dad wouldn't have survived an extra night with an aspir

  • by dannydawg5 (910769) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @10:36AM (#16805062)
    This happened Feb, 2003.

    2 months after finishing college and starting a new job in a new area, I woke up one morning with an odd stomach pain. I didn't think anything of it, so I went to work. By lunch time, the pain did not relax at all. It didn't get worse... just a steady piercing pain. I told a co-worker I was taking a half day. By 5pm, I was starting to get really worried because this was not a normal feeling stomach pain, and it was still there.

    I went to Google and typed in stomach pain, and that's when I was starting to really get worried. Several websites started directing me to Appendicitis. After reading more, I had all the Appendicitis symptoms except "nauseated". I called a friend, and he said, "Nah, man! It's probably just something you ate! You said you aren't feeling nauseated, right? I'd wait until you were nauseated."

    I had crappy insurance. I didn't want to go to the hospital unless I needed to, but since everything I read online was pointing to Appendicitis, I eventually decided that peace of mind was worth an out-of-pocket exam, so I jumped in the car and drove myself to the ER.

    I went to the front desk, and he asked, "What do you think is wrong?"
    I said, "I think I have Appendicitis."
    "All right, fill this out and sit over there."

    When I got to finally see a nurse, I said, "I think I have Appendicitis."
    "Does this hurt?" "Yes."

    When I got to finally a doctor, I said, "I think I have Appendicitis."
    "We'll run some tests."

    They ran a blood test. Came back positive.
    They ran some x-ray type test. Came back positive.

    By 10pm, the doctor came and said, "You have Appendicitis." By 5am, they were operating on me.

    After one flaming bag of pus removed, and ~$5,000 worth of medical debt, I spent the next week on disability leave playing Final Fantasy X in my apartment. Good game, btw.

    • by gatzke (2977)
      I was in grad school and had some pain. My buddy said, "Nothing cures pain like a beer. Let's go to pint night."

      After a few pints, I was up all that night with terrible pain. Hit the student health center when they opened at 5:30 or 6:00.

      Apparently, Purdue U docs don't have high tech xray type stuff. I got the rubber glove. Didn't care, the pain was terrible.

      Doc decided I had appendicitis, sent me to a surgeon. I had to have my buddy drive me.

      We get there, and while being admitted buddy says, "Good lu
    • I didn't want to go to the hospital unless I needed to, but since everything I read online was pointing to Appendicitis, I eventually decided that peace of mind was worth an out-of-pocket exam

      The moral of this story is that Google helped you save your own life, by convincing you that you needed to be checked out. In a very short time I've seen several cases like yours in our county hospital, of uninsured young adults with appendicitis. But unlike you they put off seeing a doctor for days, even weeks, out of

    • by StikyPad (445176)
      The internet saved my life one time too. I was in a pretty bad car accident a few weeks ago. My car hydroplaned on the highway, and spun out, careening backwards into a concrete phone pole. The gas tank ruptured, and I was knocked unconscious. Fortunately the internet pulled me from the vehicle and rushed me to the ER. As it turned out, I suffered only some minor lacerations and a moderate case of whiplash, but who knows what might have happened if the internet hadn't been there.
  • .. and two weeks later, you'll have lawsuits from people outraged that the proposed cure for athlete's foot is smashing your nuts with a sledgehammer. It's not that surprising that people are going to the Internet for medical advice, although it's mildly worrying. One forum I visit has nothing to do with medical matters yet people regularly post questions asking 'HAY I AM BLEEDING FROM THE EARS ANYONE KNOW WHATS UP' to which the response is generally 'Go and see a doctor, you pillock.'
  • It's true (Score:3, Funny)

    by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Saturday November 11, 2006 @12:07PM (#16805698) Homepage
    Just last Tuesday I was feeling like a miserable failure [google.com], so I asked Google what the problem could be. I got the right answer in just one click.
  • New studies have found that research helps doctors identify diseases they are not familiar with!
  • by yulek (202118) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @12:27PM (#16805828) Homepage Journal
    while at work one day back in 1997 i got these weird blisters on my face. they got worse quite quickly. a fever came. sweats. sitting in my cube i started panicking and typed a search string containing my various symptoms into the search engine of the day at that time, prolly hotbot (!)

    the search engine told me that at best i had herpes but more likely leprosy.

    my doctor finally returned my call, had me come over, and told me it was chickenpox... ...

    can you imagine what a hypochondriac's google search logs might looks like?
  • I read an article about eight years ago about an expert system written in Prolog that allowed doctors to select a list of symptoms, it would then ask about additional symptoms and then return a list of likely conditions. It apparently had a very high degree of accuracy (I think it was in the low 90's), and was vehemently rejected by the majority of doctors.

    Hopefully the next generation of doctors will be so use to using internet search engines, that they won't feel threatened by a tool designed to help them
  • What next? I can lose money quicker on the stock market using Google?
  • in many senses google is an expert system. it contains a huge amount of information. often though patients lookup information in google and then develop the disease. doctors have to fight through this also, so it's hardly surprising that they try and find what it is that the patient has developed.
  • by Invicta{HOG} (38763) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @01:54PM (#16806430)
    But not for this purpose. It's a good resource for handouts explaining diseases in layman's terms. It's also good for diagrams to show patients. And occasionally I'll fire it up if I don't recognize a trade name for a new medication.

    But for diagnosis, no. Here are the limitations of this study as I see them. The New England Journal cases are weird, uncommon diseases. They often feature a constellation of uncommon symptoms, such as the example used in the article - IPEX (immunodeficiency, polyendocrinopathy, enteropathy, X linked). If you search for just immunodeficiency and polyendocrinopathy, you will get the answer. This is because those are rare symptoms and their combination is even rarer. You would get the same result on any of the well-traveled medical professional sites. If you had a patient with more common symptoms such as with fatigue, weight loss, and night sweats, the prospects of a successful search are low. Another problem with the study is that diagnosis requires a determination of which symptoms are important. If you search for "immunodeficiency polyendocrinopathy hangnail" you don't get IPEX. The researchers in the study got to choose which features of the disease to include and made sure to search for them in medical language. If they had searched for "immunodeficiency low thyroid" they would get an article about greyhounds. It's the same symptom, but not searched medically (polyendocrinopathy). A final issue is that one of the reason these cases are so hard (they all come from Massachusetts General Hospital, where I've cared for a few of them) is that they take awhile to unfold. Usually by the time they are written up nicely, they are far easier than when only one or two symptoms have developed or when the bloodwork is only half finished. When a case appears in the New England Journal, you start thinking rare things immediately. When it appears in your clinic, you should think of common things first.

    Anyway, I definitely think that google (or more likely other diagnostic algorithms) has a role in the future of diagnosis. I don't think that it is anywhere near that point yet. I think the study actually supports that (58% is pretty poor!)
  • a) Why on earth would you use Google when you can go directly to PubMed, which is where most of the halfway decent Google results would be anyway?

    b) This is not, in general, a great application of search technology. Simple AI is what's needed here. Doctors used to do an extremely poor job of identifying which person in the ER with chest pains was actually having a heart attack. A doctor made a database of cases and symptoms, and then made a simple flowchart that could do a better job of identifying heart at
  • Rather than looking for what you do have... searches are really good for finding out what you don't have. Looking at your symptoms you can easily strike out many many illnesses and narrow the list down to just a few potential causes. These few are the ones you go to your doctor with and say, hey here are my symptoms, here are the possible causes I've found... can we test for these?

    Your MMV but a good doctor would say "sure but see this one and this one... these are very unlikely based on my experience and e
  • As a medical student, I can tell you that sites like WedMD and the like are both a blessing and a curse. It is very good to have an informed patient. When they come in with some idea of their ailment, it can help both of you. When you have gone hiking in the woods in New England, suspect you have a tick bite, and look up a picture of the (very distinct) Lyme Disease "Bulls-eye" rash and find that it is exactly the one you have, it can help you and your doctor.

    However, sites like WebMD are horrible for pa

  • I worked for eight months on a project last year here in the UK being sold to the National Heath Service called "The Map of Medicine." This is a "knowledge support" system which is basically a very sophisticated (and extremely large) set of tree diagrams (or "pathways") that assist a clinician in their diagnosis and treatment of patients.

    We conducted user research as part of the design of this system, and one of the things we found was that younger clinicians (doctors, consultants and students) use Google.
  • I just tried to use this method to diagnose myself, and all I got was this [google.com].
  • It's what happened here [slashdot.org], IIRC.

Almost anything derogatory you could say about today's software design would be accurate. -- K.E. Iverson

Working...