Elizabeth Entenman
September 06, 2015 10:22 am

Real talk: I have a love/hate relationship with WebMD. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve experienced a pain in my shoulder, done some Googling and convinced myself I’m having a heart attack. Sound familiar? When there’s an unusual pain in your elbow or a weird tickle in your throat, chances are you turn to the Internet first to find some answers. Five minutes and ten pages of search results later, you’re convinced you’re dying. There’s a better way to go about this — and Google is leading the charge.

Google recently introduced a new feature that hopes to provide you with accurate medical information and research — and help you weed out the bad. When you search for something like ‘arthritis’ or ‘celiac disease’ a teal box is displayed on the side of the page with more information. This info serves as an overview and jumping off point to help you dig deeper. Kind of like when you search ‘Paul Rudd’ or ‘Frozen’ — just with diseases.

“As before, we’ve consulted and worked closely with a team of doctors to curate and validate this information,” Google wrote in a blog post. “We’ve gotten lots of positive, helpful feedback from our users and medical professionals, and we’ll keep working to bring useful health information to your fingertips, whether in the Google app or on desktop.”

We took the new feature for a spin, and it’s definitely useful and already pretty thorough. We searched ‘asthma’ and found the disease’s basic overview, symptoms and treatments. It also outlined possible side effects and recommends types of specialists to see. You can even download a PDF for more information.

The goal is to arm people with basic knowledge and help stop the spread of diseases. And, to get us to stop jumping to conclusions. It might also change the way we search for medical information. For example, my go-to search is ‘heart attack arm’ and the results yield terrifying lists of heart attack symptoms. But! In the future, I’ll remember to search ‘heart attack’ instead so I can learn more about the actual condition than scare myself with a list of symptoms.

The bottom line is, let’s stop self-diagnosing. Because when we do it, we’re stressing ourselves out with bad information. Which doesn’t help any if we really are sick.

(Featured image via Shutterstock.)

Advertisement