Web search engines have emerged as an important indirect tool in communication and diffusion of knowledge, with Google.com playing a dominant role.
A 2006 BMJ study reported that Google searches revealed the correct diagnosis in 58% of the diagnostic cases published in the case records of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The aim of this 2009 study including 3 subjects was to evaluate whether searching Google with was effective in the identification and diagnosis of complex immunological and allergic cases.
45 case reports were randomly selected by an independent observer from peer-reviewed medical journals.
Clinical data were presented separately to 3 investigators, blinded to the final diagnoses:
- Investigator A was a Consultant with an expert knowledge in Internal Medicine and Allergy (IM&A) and basic computing skills
- Investigator B was a Registrar in IM&A
- Investigator C was a Research Nurse
Both Investigators B and C were familiar with computers and search engines.
For every clinical case presented, each investigator independently carried out an Internet search using Google to provide a final diagnosis.
Correct diagnoses were provided in 66% of cases, 86% of cases, and in 64% of cases by investigator A, B, and C, respectively. All of the 3 investigators achieved the correct diagnosis in 19 cases (42%), and all of them failed in two cases. Computing skills may help to get better results.
Search engine as a diagnostic tool in difficult immunological and allergologic cases: is Google useful? Lombardi C, Griffiths E, McLeod B, Caviglia A, Penagos M. Intern Med J. 2009 Jul;39(7):459-64.
Googling for a diagnosis--use of Google as a diagnostic aid: internet based study. Tang H, Ng JH. BMJ. 2006 Dec 2;333(7579):1143-5. Epub 2006 Nov 10.
Image source: Google Blogoscoped by Philipp Lenssen, used with permission.