News ID: 154109
Published: 0312 GMT June 29, 2016

Google ‘doctor’ could misdiagnose life-threatening diseases

Google ‘doctor’ could misdiagnose life-threatening diseases

A leading charity has spoken out after Google announced it will become a mobile medical professional — with the ability to give people advice about their symptoms.

The search giant has revealed it will be overhauling the medical search capacity on its site to provide more information relating to possible health issues, according to

But Meningitis Now has expressed concern over Google’s proposed symptoms checking tools being relied on to identify the early signs of the diseases.

The tool, which has been rolled out in the US,  means anyone searching for a particular symptom will now be given information on related conditions, as well as details on how best to treat yourself and if your issue warrants a visit to the doctor.

It means someone Googling ‘headache’ will now see a list of related conditions.

The charity said up to one percent of searches are related to medical symptoms, with millions of people worldwide rely on the search engine as their primary source of health information.

Liz Brown, CEO of Meningitis Now said the move to improve the quality of medical information online is welcomed by the charity, but said it is a ‘real concern’ people may misdiagnose the early symptoms of life-threatening diseases.

“We would encourage anyone showing a combination of meningitis symptoms such as severe headache, vomiting, muscle pain and fever with cold hands and feet to trust their instincts and seek medical advice immediately and not waste time using online diagnosis.

“These could be the early signs of meningitis and septicaemia.

“There is conflicting advice online, and a rash is often a later symptom.

“Earlier this year British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, advised people to use Google to diagnose the rash often associated with meningitis.

“On this occasion we voiced our concerns, calling this advice irresponsible and that whilst a search engine can provide useful information, it is no substitute for the clinical expertise that is offered by staff in our the National Health Service (NHS).

“My advice is to trust your instincts over technology.

“If you have any concerns you should seek advice from a medical professional immediately — lost time equals lost lives.”

Google has worked closely with Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic to create a database of symptoms, which has been added into Google search technology with the aim to give more reliable information to users.

A new algorithm will provide a list of related conditions when they search for symptoms and self-treatment options.

People can also called NHS 111 if they are concerned about a medical symptom.

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