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Google Useful to Help Doctors Diagnose Difficult Cases

Wider Internet access on wards and in clinics are helping the Web become an important tool for doctors

FRIDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- The increasing availability of Internet access on hospital wards and in outpatient clinics is enabling more and more doctors to access the Web and use the search engine Google to help diagnose difficult cases, according to a study published online Nov. 10 in BMJ.

Hangwi Tang, M.D., and a colleague from Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, Australia, identified three to five search terms for 26 cases of disease reported in the New England Journal of Medicine and then Google-searched each case without knowing the correct diagnoses.

Searches using Google resulted in a correct diagnosis in 15 cases (58 percent). "We suspect that using Google to search for a diagnosis is likely to be more effective for conditions with unique symptoms and signs that can easily be used as search terms," the authors comment. "Searches are less likely to be successful in complex diseases with non-specific symptoms or common diseases with rare presentations," they add.

The authors emphasize that for patients, Google is likely to be less effective as a search engine for disease diagnosis as the efficiency of the search depends on the knowledge base of the searcher, which affects the selection of documents.

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