Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Speaking of "googling".....

It's not just a proper noun anymore. "Google" is a verb. To google, googling, googled, have googled, will google, am googling....

Google had revolutionized information. Wait, let me rephrase. Google has revolutionized the usage and dissemination of information. Among other things, I teach database programming and design, and I often emphasize to my students how useless information is until it's properly organized and is retrievable in an understandable fashion. This is very true and an axiom that Google's designers took to heart.

Nowhere has Google transformed the huge repository of information collection, dissemination, and organization more than in the health industry. Do you want to save your health information and share it with your health care professionals? Try Google Health. But wait... Is Google good for your health records? My insurance company must think so: Google Health Signs on First Insurance Partner. So does my pharmacy: Walgreens (WAG) Partners with Google (GOOG) Provide Pharmacy Patients Access to Prescription History.

Looking for health resources? Try Google Directory. Or better yet, just "google" your symptoms. Something is sure to pop up. It did for me. That's how I found http://cushings-help.com/ . And it was with the support there that I found doctors who could help me.

Speaking of doctors. Yep, they "google", too. Doctors using Google to diagnose illnesses is an article based in Australia which says:

...a team at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane identified 26 difficult diagnostic cases published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year, including obscure conditions such as Cushing's syndrome and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

They selected three to five search terms from each case and did a Google search while blind to the correct diagnoses. Google gives users quick access to more than three billion medical articles.

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

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."

Before you go bashing Australian doctors, you might want to read Googling Medical Topics Returns Decent Results by two US doctors. (Dr. Fink is an emergency physician at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ. Dr. Miller is an emergency physician at Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, NJ.)

And although physicians are secretly Googling difficult medical situations, many aren't thrilled that we're doing the same thing . They have even coined a new term: Cyberchondriacs . I bristle at that a bit. I was asked by a physician one time if I was causing all my problems by "reading too much". I asked her if she had that problem in med school. I made my point.

While the media has made the term demeaning, the Harris Poll thinks otherwise: "Data from other Harris Interactive research show that, increasingly, cyberchondriacs are using the sites of established organizations – academic, governmental, pharmaceutical, etc. – rather than using "pure ehealth" sites."

But back to "Googling"...... Some physicians have bridged the gap between patient "googling" and their own "googling". They are saving time with smarter googling.

"When FP Jeff Pearson in suburban San Diego wants to teach a patient about the characteristics of a suspicious-looking mole during an office visit, he types a phrase like "malignant mole" in a little box on his computer screen, and a click later, an array of images appears."

There is something for all of us when we go "googling". Information is always valuable. There are information Nazis who would prefer to keep it to themselves to dole out at will, but D-day has come for them. Or is that G-day? Health information for all is here, and that includes "googling for all".

I wonder if "google" is now in the dictionary........


  1. Robin,
    I have always found it curious that I, an average mom with very little techno savvy, found Cushing's disease in an afternoon by googling symptoms. It was the only disease that explained every single one of my daughter's symptoms. Yet, we had to travel out-of-state, after seeing a dozen doctors locally, to get a diagnosis, even when we went in saying we thought it was Cushing's. Now that she is cured, I really feel like writing to those doctors and saying thanks. . . for nothing!

  2. LOL, Diane...have you read my latest post? (June 30) I pretty much laid it out there. I very much understand. The problem I see is that the doctors don't want to see ALL the symptoms as one package. They never put it all together.

  3. we had to travel out-of-state, after seeing a dozen doctors locally, to get a diagnosis, even when we went in saying we thought it was Cushing's.



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