Caution urged over Google ‘diagnoses'

GPs have been urged to stick to authoritative information sources on diagnostics after researchers suggested that using internet search engine Google could help doctors with tricky diagnoses.

Each doctor carries an estimated two million facts in their head to help make a diagnosis, but with medical knowledge expanding rapidly, web-based searches might help, said the researchers.  

The study focused on 26 difficult diagnostic cases, including Cushing’s syndrome and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Three to five search terms were placed into a Google search by doctors blind to the correct diagnosis.  

Despite the search engine failing to produce a correct diagnosis in 42 per cent of cases, researchers said web-based searches might help in difficult cases.  

But Dr Nicholas Norwell, medico-legal adviser at the Medical Defence Union, advised GPs to consult colleagues. ‘Keeping up-to-date would be accessing authoritative information, which would be that from the DoH, royal colleges and so on,’ he said. 

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