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Google turns pocket doctor: Now symptom searches will help diagnose what's wrong

Searching for health conditions related to physical symptoms should soon be a lot faster for US smartphone owners.

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Google is rolling out a new way of presenting the results of symptom searches in its mobile app.

Image: Google

Google has worked with doctors to develop a new feature for its Search app that will display a summary of related conditions when you search for symptoms online.

If you've ever been freaked out by possible conditions when searching Google for symptoms, like a headache or rash, you're not alone. Google notes that about one percent of searches on Google are symptom-related but it's hard to navigate the results, which often "lead people from mild symptoms to scary and unlikely conditions".

To help people avoid the anxiety caused by possibly irrelevant information, Google is rolling out a new format for results when people search for symptoms in the Google Search app on a smartphone.

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The results now appear in a carousel at the top of the screen, offering cards that provide an overview of several conditions related to the symptoms, self-treatment options, and suggestions about the ones that might warrant a visit to the doctor.

So, for a search about 'headache on one side', it will present cards that can be scrolled through with information about headache, migraine, tension headache, cluster headache, sinusitis, and common cold.

The aim is to steer people toward relevant information for further research and help people quickly decide if it's worth seeking medical help, said Google.

Google also worked with a team of medical doctors to review the symptom information it provides, while experts at the Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic vetted the related medical conditions.

Otherwise, Google creates the list of symptoms based on health conditions mentioned in web results. It then checks this list against medical information it's collected from doctors for its Knowledge Graph database.

Google has counted a total of 900 health conditions in its database, which a team of doctors helped validate for results on the web and its app.

The new symptom search feature will roll out to mobile devices in English in the US first. Over time Google hopes to expand it with more symptoms, and bring it to other languages for users elsewhere in the world.

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