Google health tools aim to make it easier to self-diagnose

About 1 per cent of searches on Google are about health symptoms – and the company says that confusion is causing ‘unnecessary anxiety and stress’

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 21 June 2016 12:52 BST
The new chat app will be released this summer
The new chat app will be released this summer (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Google is rolling out new health tools aimed at making it easier for people to self-diagnose.

The company says that 1 per cent – millions – of searches on its website are related to people’s symptoms. But the unclear information and confusion is leading people to experience “unnecessary anxiety and stress”, and it hopes to fix that with its new tool.

With a new feature that is being rolled out, Google hopes to solve those problems and help people find out what might be wrong with them.

“For individual symptoms like 'headache,' we’ll also give you an overview description along with information on self-treatment options and what might warrant a doctor’s visit,” product manager Veronica Pinchin wrote in a Google blog. “By doing this, our goal is to help you to navigate and explore health conditions related to your symptoms, and quickly get to the point where you can do more in-depth research on the web or talk to a health professional.”

The results will be created by looking for health conditions that are mentioned in its web results, Google said. It also checks those results against information created by its doctors – a team of experts who will check through the individual symptom information and check that it shows the right information and comes up for the right searches.

Despite that expert help, Google says that the search tool is meant for “informational purposes only”, and recommends that everyone consult a doctor if they need advice. It also asks that people tell it whether or not the information is useful.

The feature will be rolling out on mobile in the next few days, Google said, initially with results showing in English for users in the US. Over time it hopes to roll out the feature to more countries and languages, as well as introducing new symptoms to its catalogue.

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