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Study finds ‘Dr. Google’ not all that accurate with medical advice

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Perth, Australia — Do you self-diagnose your medical problems using online symptom checkers, or “Dr. Google”? If so, you likely aren’t getting the most accurate information, researchers caution.

Looking at 36 international mobile and web-based symptom checkers, researchers from Edith Cowan University submitted brief medical condition information and found that the algorithm-based programs provided the accurate diagnosis as the first result only 36% of the time. The correct diagnosis was in the top three only 52% of the time, and in the top 10 only 58% of the time.

In addition, the symptom checkers were only 49% accurate in determining when and where to seek medical care. The programs performed better with emergency and urgent care situations (60%) compared with non-emergencies (30% to 40%).

“While it may be tempting to use these tools to find out what may be causing your symptoms, most of the time they are unreliable at best and can be dangerous at worst,” lead researcher Michella Hill, a master’s degree candidate at the university, said in a May 17 press release.

The study was published online May 18 in the Medical Journal of Australia.

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