Self-diagnosis can often lead to much panic and anxiety. UK newspaper The Telegraph reported in a 2015 survey that one in four of us choose to self-diagnose on the internet instead of visiting doctors. With OTC products so readily available in numerous regions, self-diagnosis could lead to self-medicating incorrectly.
Last week, Google launched verified medical information in Australian search results, detailing common health complaints such as coughs, infections, rashes and snakebites. However, Australian doctors have warned that while the information might be a conversation starter, it could lead to misdiagnoses and should never replace seeing a specialist.
Google revealed plans to launch Health Cards as part of Google search results in Australia after working on the project with doctors and medical agencies, one of which was the Mayo Clinic. The cards cover the details and symptoms of over 900 health conditions and diseases recommending next steps for concerned sufferers.
llnesses and concerns featured in Google’s Health Cards will include tonsillitis, coeliac disease and eye infections, with some cards also featuring animated GIFs to demonstrate illnesses. Google Health Cards programme manager Isobel Solaqua said the project was created to address the growing number of medical questions fired at its search engine, stating that: “In fact, one in 20 Google searches are for health-related information … We developed this feature to help people find the health information they need more quickly and easily.”
Australian Medical Association federal vice-president Dr Tony Bartone said users should be “careful not to substitute health information for a qualified medical opinion”. Dr Bartone added that Google’s Health Cards could help patients refine questions for their doctor but medical professionals did not “want to end up with 50 reams of Google pages” brought into consultations.
Online health advice offers us a potential quick fix solution for ongoing health issues, enabling us to ease discomfort and anxiety. Considering this, Google Health Cards will no doubt be a feature that is used and appreciated by many. Though consultants have expressed concerns about confusion and misdiagnosis, is there the potential that this could boost OTC sales and allow people to avoid visiting consultants for minor issues?