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Watch out, WebMD: Google's teamed with leading doctors to provide vetted online medical advice

Feeling nauseous? Perhaps a bit feverish? Google's launching a new feature on mobile and its Google search app that promises to provide answers without forcing you to dig through dozens of overwhelming (and possibly misleading) medical forums, let alone consult established sites like WebMD. 

In the coming days, when you ask Google about your symptoms, the search engine will return a list of related conditions. For instance, if you search for “headache on one side,” Google will offer up a list of informational cards with possible answers for what's ailing you. Tap a card, and it’ll provide further information on the condition and treatment.

Google takes pains to emphasize that it's trying to make it easier for you to find good medical information on the web, but it's also making sure you don't use the web as a substitute for professional advice. In its blog post, Google said it worked with a team of medical doctors at Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic to review individual symptom information. That data was also cross-referenced with the medical information that Google had collected from doctors for its robust Knowledge Graph.

The new search ability is rolling out over the next few days on a limited basis: Android, iOS, and the Google Search app, but only in English in the United States. Google says it’s hoping to cover more symptoms extend the service to other languages in the future.

Why this matters: Sometimes “Googling” what’s wrong with you can cause more harm than good. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched for what’s wrong with me, only to end up rocking back in the forth in the corner about my impending mortality. But while these quick snippets of information can help prevent you from tumbling down a rabbit hole of worry, they shouldn’t replace an actual visit to the doctor.

IDG Insider

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