Internet Medicine: Does that Make Al Gore My Family Physician?

A new study finds an increasing number of doctors using information from Internet searches to help diagnose illnesses:

The internet search engine Google has added another impressive string to its bow – by helping doctors diagnose illnesses, according to a new study.

Researchers found that almost six-in-10 difficult cases can be solved by using the world wide web as a diagnostic aid.

Doctors fight disease by carrying about two million facts in their heads but with medical knowledge expanding rapidly, even this may not be enough.

Fred has written on this topic before, but from the patient’s side. He explains how online resources are helping people take change of their own health and well being:

The hierarchic medical structure of the past—the doctors as high priests dispensing their knowledge in oracular fashion—is rapidly being replaced by the noisier, but vastly more knowledgeable Web.

As the mainstream infectious diseases of the past fade into history, people find themselves affected by less common diseases, by rarer side-effects, by ailments with no clear etiology. But this is almost equally true of their physicians who, increasingly specialized and dealing with a few thousand patients a year, are unlikely to encounter your particular malady.

The Internet, in contrast, has made it possible for victims of “rare” conditions to find ways to communicate with one another. These sites today are generally “noisy” and a bit paranoid; many of their sponsors and members see rare contaminants or industrial pollutants causes for almost
everything. Nonetheless, they are maturing. While some argue we need government oversight of this profusion of speakers, the solution to bad information is not censorship but rather better information.

Let’s just hope the FDA doesn’t hear about this. Before you know it, only board certified physicians will be allowed to post comments on