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Google plays doctor by identifying your medical symptoms

An update to Google's mobile app and website lets you search for symptoms and receive a list of possible conditions and other details.

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You can now search Google for medical symptoms and not just actual conditions.

Google

You can now ask Google to help diagnose what ails you.

Starting Monday, Google's mobile site as well as its iOS and Android apps will introduce a feature that aims to track down information on medical symptoms. Instead of having to search for a condition, you can search for a certain symptom, such as "my stomach hurts."

In response, Google provides an overview of potential conditions, possible treatments, directions on how to get more information online and which type of doctor may be able to help.

When you search for medical ailments, Google typically points you to specialized sites such as WebMD, the Mayo Clinic and Medline Plus. But you sometimes have to cull through pages and pages of information to get what you seek. Finding and viewing all the information in one single place can simplify your search.

To build the new feature, Google put together a list of symptoms found in search results, everything from "headache on one side" to "bruise around eye" to "lower back pain." Google then checked those symptoms against medical information gathered from doctors for its Knowledge Graph, an advanced feature that tries to deliver and display a more comprehensive collection of data.

The results of your symptom search then pop up in a single "condition" panel, so all the information is in one spot. And for the new feature, Google called in some doctors.

"To get this information, we worked with a team of medical doctors to carefully review the individual symptom information and develop the way we build the related health conditions list," a Google spokeswoman said. "We also had experts at Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic evaluate related conditions for a representative set of searches to help improve the lists we show."

The new feature will be available only through Google's mobile site and apps, not through its desktop website, and only in the US and in English, at least to start. After launching on Monday, the new symptom search should reach most users over the next day or two.

Around one percent of all searches on Google are related to symptoms, but that translates to millions of searches. The goal of the new feature is to offer help for medical conditions but only as information. Google stresses that people with a medical condition should still contact their doctor to get actual medical advice or care.