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Google is Making it Way Easier to Search Your Symptoms

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It's one of your most stressful days at school, and you have an essay to finish—But suddenly your head is pounding, you feel a sore throat coming on, or you're getting nauseous. You're not sure if you need to head to the health center, and you don't even have time if you want to get all your work done! What's a girl to do? In the past, Googling your symptoms to find a quick fix wasn't very reliable, and it could even be kind of terrifying. But in the next few days, Google will be coming out with a new feature that will make it much easier to find out what's causing your problems.

This new program will come up with related health issues, overviews of your problem, and information on how to treat the issue. Plus, it'll let you know if you really should make time to stop in and see a doctor. Although you may not have always trusted these search results, now you'll be seeing information approved by teams of doctors and experts at Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic. For now, this feature will only be available in English in the United States, but over time Google is planning to add more searchable symptoms as well as provide information in more languages across the world.

Ateev Mehrotra, associate professor at Harvard Medical School, explained to USA Today that for many, obviously, Google is the first place to go when any medical issue pops up in their life. But Googling doesn't work too well because of just how much information is out there. One headache, and suddenly you think you have a terminal disease. "Anything Google does in this space to improve that process is going to be helpful for patients," she told USA Today.

On the Official Google Blog, Google gives an example of how this program will help the average person. They write, "Health content on the web can be difficult to navigate, and tends to lead people from mild symptoms to scary and unlikely conditions, which can cause unnecessary anxiety and stress... Our goal is to help you 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." For us, this can mean less worry and stress over our health, giving us more time to focus on our academics, extracurriculars and social lives.

This should go without saying, but product manager Veronic Pinchin reminded USA Today that although Google tries to show the most trusted results for a search, it should be used as a "starting off point," not in place of a doctor. About a third of online users get the correct diagnoses, whereas those who see a doctor have an 80 to 90 percent accuracy rate, according to a study Mehrotra and fellow researchers completed. So use Google in a pinch, but remember that not even algorithms can replace a trained medical professional.


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