Use of Google as a diagnostic aid

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39058.703194.3A (Published 14 December 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1270

Bias your search

  1. Mark Taubert, specialist registrar in palliative medicine
  1. 1Holme Tower Marie Curie Centre, Penarth, South Glamorgan CF64 3YR mtaubert@hotmail.com

    Although Google can be a valuable aid in reaching diagnoses in rare conditions,1 the problem faced in a busy, fast-paced clinic can be the abundance of lesser quality material on the web. “Biasing” or directing your search by adding the name of an online clinical knowledge base such as Emedicine can lead you to quality information more quickly; you avoid sifting through dozens of unknown journals, personal webpages, blogs, or discussion forums containing your search terms.

    For example, by typing “pigmented lesion+buccal” into Google you will get 55 000 hits with a vast array of very different material. However, typing “pigmented lesion+buccal+emedicine” provides only 106 hits (accessed 12 November 2006), the first being a comprehensive Emedicine review on Peutz-Jeghers syndrome.2 You get similar results by adding “BMJ” to the end of your search; in this case the top hit is an ABC of oral health article.3


    • Competing interests: None declared.


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