Your doctor's secret: He Googles

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Julie's Health Club
Living healthy in a toxic world
By Julie Deardorff

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Originally posted: November 10, 2006
Your doctor's secret: He Googles

If you've ever Googled your medical symptoms before going to the
doctor, don't be shy about telling him or her your discovery. Chances
are, your physician is digging up health information in exactly the
same way.

Doctors are increasingly tapping the Internet for health-related
information, and the search engine Google can help physicians diagnose
difficult medical situations, according to a new study published in the
British Medical Journal.

When the doctors selected three to five search terms for 26 difficult
cases published in a medical journal, Google spit out the correct
diagnoses for 58 percent of them, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease,
lymphoma, Churg-Strauss syndrome, Brugada syndrome and cat scratch

Apparently, medical knowledge is expanding so rapidly that doctors, who
can supposedly keep 2 million facts in their heads, can't keep up.

Google can give them access to more than 3 billion medical articles.

Still, it helps to have a doctor who stays current and checks sources.
The study found the efficiency of the search and the usefulness of the
information the doctor found depends on the searchers' knowledge

Also, Google was far from perfect. It missed endometriosis, calling it
"tuberous sclerosis," West Nile fever (Google suggested "Graft versus
host disease") and pylephlebitis (Cirrhosis).

And while about 80 percent of American Internet users dig up health
information online, according to a new study by the Pew Internet
Project, keep in mind that the Internet is rife with misinformation,
which can be dangerous when it comes to health.

Pew says just 2 percent of popular health sites display the source and
date of information according to a study commissioned by the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services. But only 25 percent of those
in the Pew poll said they "always" or "most of the time" check the
source and the date of the health information.

In 2001, 50 percent of the people polled by Pew checked the source
"always" or "some of the time."

Are we getting more trusting, less discriminating or both?

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