Dr. Google: The Inaccuracy in Search Engine Diagnosis

Today, we live in a world of cyberchondria. Unfortunately, many people use search engines like Google to check for what illness could be causing them to feel funny. This over-reliance on the Internet to provide accurate information for medical problems has caused global cyberchondria. So, how many Internet users are using search engines to self-diagnose? Research studies have shown that 35 percent of adults go online to find out what medical conditions may be afflicting them. Google has also revealed that one in 20 of its searches per month are for information on health. The sad news is that just about half of the information regarding medical conditions on the Internet is inaccurate. Sometimes, it’s even out there just to frighten people.

Medical professionals like Dr. Zuccon and his colleagues at the Queensland University of Technology did a search online just to find out how accurate or inaccurate medical information on Google was. Instead of sound and reliable information, they found large numbers of unfounded speculations and inaccurate statistics. The end result of their search determined that three out of the first 10 results on Google were useful for self-diagnosis. There was also scary information. For example, if you had a bad migraine, you might wind up concluding that you have a brain tumor. According to Dr. Zuccon, the wrong information can also harm one’s health. People may try to use the wrong home therapy or even purchase the wrong medications.

So, is all of this misinformation really Dr. Google’s fault? Well, it’s not entirely. The way search engines work can easily lead a searcher down the wrong path. For example, they might only respond with results from more popular sites, instead of focusing in on the specific search word.

While it’s okay to look for some general information online using search engines, it shouldn’t be your only resource to figure out what’s wrong with you. The best thing to do is to go to a qualified doctor. Instead of having to search through thousands of web pages, the doctor will do an examination and run tests to come up with an accurate diagnosis.


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