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Dr. Google Works For Patients, Doctors

According to a new study, the Internet search engine Google can help doctors diagnose illnesses. The rest of us have been using Google to diagnose our various aches, pains, illnesses and doctor-recommended procedures for some time now.

A team at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, Australia identified 26 difficult diagnostic cases published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year. The cases included such obscuure conditions as Cushing's syndrome (a hormonal disorder caused by prolonged exposure of the body's tissues to high levels of the hormone cortisol) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (very rare and incurable degenerative neurological disorder -brain disease- that is ultimately fatal).

Researchers selected 3-5 search terms from each case and did a Google search. Google indexes approximately 3 billion medical research articles.

The three diagnoses that were ranked most prominently and appeared to fit the symptoms and signs by researchers, who then compared the results with the correct diagnoses as published in the journal.

Incredibly, Google searches found the correct diagnosis in 15 (58 per cent) of cases. Respiratory and sleep physician Dr Hangwi Tang, who led the study, said: "Doctors adept at using the internet use Google to help them diagnose difficult cases.

"As described in the New England Journal of Medicine, a doctor astonished her colleagues including an eminent professor by correctly diagnosing IPEX (immunodeficiency, polyendocrinopathy, enteropathy, X linked) syndrome.

She admitted that the diagnosis 'popped right out' after she entered the salient features into Google."

If you are comforted by the idea of computers diagnosing your illness, check out these futuristic - but real - medical accomplishments:

Read more here.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/11/2006)

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