Google health tools

Google health tools: Will they help self-diagnosis?

At East Berkshire Primary Care Out of Hours, we are always keen to promote self-care. Self-care can help to treat a number of conditions at home or with the help of a pharmacist that can leave GP waiting rooms and A&E departments free for emergency cases and help ease the burden on the NHS. Self-diagnosis is a key part of this, and when done responsibly could go a long way towards alleviating the pressure on our health services. Google’s announcement of the launch of its own health tools aims to make self-diagnosis easier, providing easy to use tools to help those who contribute to the 1% of web searches which are related to symptom checking. So how do these new Google health tools work, and can you trust them?


Google health tools and self-diagnosis

The internet has made it much simpler for us to self-diagnose. With a wealth of information available in just a few clicks, many of us have been known to try and figure out what’s wrong with us by inputting a few symptoms into Google. However, self-diagnosis can also be a dangerous thing, with the mildest symptoms being misinterpreted as something more serious. There’s also the temptation to search for every niggle and twinge too, which can be an unwise idea. Google aims to provide more direct and informed information as well as advise on when a doctor’s appointment is advised. Google will also advise on treatments, with a big emphasis on self-care – helping people to get quicker, more effective answers to their concerns rather than getting lost in the wide range of conflicting information which exists online.

Google Product Manager Veronica Pinchin explained how the health tools would work, saying: “For individual symptoms like ‘headache,’ we’ll also give you an overview description along with information on self-treatment options and what might warrant a doctor’s visit. By doing this, our goal is to help you to navigate and explore health conditions related to your symptoms, and quickly get to the point where you can do more in-depth research on the web or talk to a health professional.”


More informed information

Google’s health tools will work by using information which is found within its web results, and more crucially, information provided by a team of doctors and medical experts. They are however keen to stress that despite the professional input which will go into its tools, the content should be used for “informational purposes” only. Should anyone have a serious health concern, they should always make an appointment with their doctor who will be able to carry out the necessary tests to diagnose properly.

Google’s health tools will be rolled out in a matter of days in the US, expanding to other countries and other languages soon.


Further information about self-diagnosis and self-care

Self-diagnosis should always be approached with caution, especially as not all information which exists online can be verified. We have covered the topic in a number of previous articles which will help to provide you with more information about it, including:

Whilst self-diagnosis can be useful for taking care of bites, coughs and colds and mild aches and pain, more serious symptoms should be dealt with by your doctor. Remember to use your pharmacist where possible, especially during the summer period where many conditions such as hay fever and insect bites can be resolved over the counter in just a few minutes. Find your nearest pharmacy via the NHS website by clicking here.