Or did they just discover the front of the "s" curve? (Picture from The Breakthrough blog.)
The s-curve describes how market demand develops. It starts slow, with people fanatic about the category. Then the product rushes through the market like a house fire and, finally, growth tapers as the market is saturated.
Despite the big numbers claimed by search sites, we are still near the front of the demand curve when it comes to checking out what ails us. Thus many people doing consumer medical searches are fanatic about the category.
One of the frst things people learn in medical school is there is usually nothing wrong. Most of the time there is nothing wrong. Doctor it hurts when I do that -- don't do that.
I had this experience just a few weeks ago, when knee pain sent me to an orthopedist. "You're 53. Stop doing so many squats. Rest it and if it hurts taken an Aleve." The knee is now much better, thank you.
This kind of reassurance can be hard to find online. What goes online is what sells. We follow what the market wants, we don't lead it.
So hypochondriacs come online, they associate headache pain with brain tumors, and next thing you know Microsoft researchers are staging a wankfest.
In terms of the medical search market, however, this study may well be a tipping point. The mass market medical industry is coming online and sellers think that "credibility" is the answer to "cyberchondria" when, in fact, calm is the answer to panic.
Getting out the message that it's usually nothing would be a great start toward bringing the mass market of medical search online. Start there, instead of making up new diseases for hypochondriacs to fear when their fingers do the walking.