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The Internet as RX for medical info

Ask, AOL, Google, Microsoft targeting health information in search engines.

Using the Internet to research medical information isn't new. We've all been typing our various ailments and symptoms into search engines for a while; it's so much quicker than calling the doctor.

And the major search sites are gearing up to bank on this trend, treating health and medical information as an important specialized vertical that merits its own treatment. released a survey this week that found that of more than 3,000 adults who participated in the online poll, 70 percent rely on the Internet as a primary source of health-related information, just two percentage points fewer than the adults who still consult their doctor first.

Armed with that data, Ask has partnered with Healthline Networks and introduced a new Health Smart Answers, which provides definitions, links to news, symptoms, treatments and other related data in its search results.

AOL also has jumped into the ring with the official launch of its new health site, AOL Body, also in partnership with Healthline.

Meanwhile, Philipp Lenssen of Google Blogoscoped has screenshots of what looks like a prototype of a Google Health site, code-named "Weaver."

Google's initiative, along with Microsoft's plans, were discussed in an article this week in The New York Times. The Internet giants plan to use search technology to help improve the health care system for consumers by giving them more data at their fingertips.