‘Googling’ medical symptoms on the internet doesn’t always find trustworthy results.

A QUT researcher is working to improve search engine results so they return the most relevant health information.

Carla Howarth reports.


It seems we’re in the habit of turning to Dr Google instead of our GP.

Vox 1: “I googled like “rash on neck” and it came up like I had this big skin condition when really it was just heat rash.”

In the US, 35 per cent of adults go online to self-diagnose a medical condition and it seems plenty of Australians are doing it too.

Vox 2: “I thought that I had like some sort of other thing and then I went to the doctors and they said it’s another thing.”

But new research from QUT and the CSIRO has found searching for an online diagnosis may be useless.

Dr Guido Zuccon, QUT Researcher: “Medical searches find a spate of different information that has different quality.”

The study found major search engines aren’t returning the most accurate results.

With only three of the first 10 links in Google providing useful information.

Dr Bevan Koopman, CSIRO Researcher: “It is related to both the content of the page, how popular it is in terms of how many other pages link to it and also how many people have visited that page over time.”

Irrelevant results can lead to a wrong self-diagnosis and possible harm.

The researchers are hoping to make search engines produce more relevant results.

Google estimates one in 20 of its 100 billion searches each month is for health and medical related information.

But if you’re googling “why am I always tired” there’s a chance you’re just going to bed too late.

Carla Howarth QUT News.