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.