Research from Google suggests that one in every 20 searches relate to a medical or health related query
With such a reliance on search engines as the first point of contact for the user during a diagnosis, the area is not only competitive, but finds itself under scrutiny in terms of trust.
Over the last 18 months Google has tried to tackle this and shown dedication to the quality of health related results. These findings have led to one of its most popular updates, the integration of medical cards in Google search.
Originally available in the US, the feature has rolled out across the globe, the latest being Google Australia (www.google.com.au) and it is thought that this will continue in the near future, with a UK date to be confirmed.
Users looking to diagnose a medical condition themselves, or better understand an existing complaint are able to perform their regular search whilst generating some interesting alternatives. Alongside the standard search results Google, with the help of a series of trusted medical sources and illustrators, has added the medical cards to the right hand side of the webpage, similar to where the maps feature pops up.
So what do the Google Health Cards show?
The cards start with the common name of the condition as well as the medical terminology and three separate slides, About, Symptoms and Treatments.
About – In this section you are given information relating to the condition as well as how common it is, where treatment can sought and the severity of the condition.
The About section also gives information about the most common ages for those with the condition and then who to contact if you suspect that this relates to your medical query.
Symptoms – This is the part of the tool that is most commonly used as it highlights all of the common symptoms for the condition. As this research is from reputable sources it allows the user to confirm or rule out any of the associated complaints. As you can see from the below image, which relates to a search for ‘heart attack’, the first step is to get a full medical diagnosis. It also highlights the things that sufferers may experience and where in the body they occur.
Treatments – This is the most expansive of the three sections and highlights all possible treatments. In essence this acts as a glossary of each treatment and some of the key teams. If we again stick to the search term ‘heart attack’, the treatments slide offers you a set of dropdown menus relating to treatments available based on severity.
Some of these menus offer you the FAQs relating to a type of care whilst others give specific terminology like the examples below:
As well as the three main areas of the medical card there are two additional features that further enhance the user experience. They are the related conditions pages where the user can look at alternatives if they are not happy with their initial online diagnosis and the ability to download a PDF. The PDF, when downloaded and printed, can be used for educating others or for showing you GP and explaining why you think you may be suffering from a certain complaint.
What are the benefits?
There are many benefits to using this tool including:
- Speedy diagnosis from trusted sources
- Relevant FAQs
- Medical recommendations
- Downloadable resources
Are the Google Health Cards welcomed and what are the dangers of self-diagnosis?
Of course with all types self-diagnosis there are dangers and whilst Google has selected what it deems to be trusted sources such as the ones below, it does advocate seeing a medical specialist and refer to the tool as a guide only.
Speaking after the rollout in Australia, Dr Tony Bartone, the vice president of the Australian Medical Association, said Health Cards were a “long-overdue improvement” but cautioned against a “cookie cutter approach to self-diagnosis”.
He continued: “There’s nothing wrong with people wanting information, as long as … it’s not used to try and assist in a short cut.
“One view is that, provided [online information] is integrated as part of the care pathway and people continue to see their regular health provider and GP, that’s good.
“But if it creates risks that have yet to be identified, then we need to know about those.
“A quick Google search could help allay a patient’s fears, he said. But it could also have the opposite effect by increasing anxiety.”
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