February 15th, 2012 @ // No Comments
(Page 1 of 2 )
Have you ever experienced a sharp pain in your side or numbness in a leg and used Google to find out whether you should call the doctor? You’re not alone; in fact, so many searchers do this that the search engine giant modified its algorithm to help.
According to a Google blog post by Dr. Roni Zeiger, Google’s Chief Health Strategist,many users searching for symptoms often follow this up with a search for a condition related to those symptoms. For example, those searching for “abdominal pain” may follow it with a search for “irritable bowel syndrome.” So Google decided to speed this process up a little.
According to Dr. Zeiger, “now when you search for a symptom or set of symptoms, you’ll often see a list of possibly related health conditions that you can use to refine your search. The list is generated by our algorithms that analyze data from pages across the web and surface the health conditions that appear to be related to your search.”
How exactly is this different from what you saw before? Greg Sterling, writing for Search Engine Land, included “before and after” screen shots in his article, after noting that the after shots were provided by Google. One screen shot showed results before the change of a search on “headache.” It showed the standard links, with the top one showing the headline “Headache Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis…” with the word “Headache” in bold. That’s quite straightforward.
The after-the-change screen shot for the “headache” search brings up a box with the heading “Searches related to headache.” Below this is a list of conditions, with the start of a sentence describing that condition. The list includes migraine, tension headache, cluster headache, migraine headache (yes, that’s separate for some reason), and meningitis. The line for migraine says “A recrrent thrubbing headache that typically affects one…” The conditions are in blue, meaning that they’re linked to specific searches for those illnesses. Finally, at the bottom of this box appears the following phrase, in small type: “Drawn from at least 10 websites including nih.gov and wikipedia.org – How this works.” The last three words are also in blue, meaning that they’re linked to a page that explains, at least to some degree, how Google does this particular bit of magic.
As Dr. Zeiger notes, the data you get from this search is aggregated from sites around the web and not from doctors. It should not be construed as medical advice or diagnoses. But it just might make it a little easier to do the research before you make that doctor’s appointment. “We’re humbled by the number of people who turn to Google with such important questions, and we are working especially hard to make our search results even more useful for health searches,” Dr. Zeiger wrote.