By Kevin McCarthy, The Guardian US.
People often search for their symptoms, but the right diagnosis can be hard to find. Google and Microsoft are working on ways to improve things
When Liz Jurcik of Seattle felt a sharp pain in her side and back in January of 2013, she didn’t think much about it.
Jurcik, a 31-year-old human resources professional at Boeing, ran regularly and was in good shape. She thought it was probably a strained muscle from a workout. But the pain got worse, and by early February she could barely stand up. “I had the absolutely worst pain in my life,” she said. “I couldn’t stand up straight.”
Like most people, Jurcik Googled her symptoms. She typed “upper left abdominal pain” into the search engine. “I learned all about gall stones, and ulcers and gas pain,” she said.
It became so painful that she called her mother, a nurse, who urged her to go to the emergency room. She was eventually diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. “My doctor said, ‘the good news is you’re going to be OK. The bad news is, you’re going to die before you turn 38 if you don’t have it taken out.’”
Jurcik feels lucky she caught her cancer when she did. But she still feels that the online information she looked at did not serve her well. “Nowhere in any of the literature did it say a tumor may have caused this.”
There is no shortage of health information available online. More than half of Americans look up health information on the internet, and more than a third try to diagnose themselves or others with it, according to the Pew Research Center. Yet studies have found that much of the information online is incorrect or out of date; Harvard researchers analyzed 23 online symptom checkers and found that they produced an accurate diagnosis as the first result just 34% of the time… read the full article.