10:00am Wednesday 19 February 2020

When Doctors Turn to Google for Diagnosis Help

Kidney specialists Kenar D. Jhaveri, MD, and Peter B. Schrier, MD, of the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and their colleagues decided to put that question to the test. They know that patients often come in waving pages of medical information culled from the Internet, and younger generations of doctors and medical students are doing the same. What they found is interesting: Residents who were asked to google and find various nephrology disease diagnosis correclty diagnosed the disease less often then nephrology attendings but with the same frequency as nephrology fellows in training. Interestingly, “googlers” diagnosed rare diseases more frequently than common diseases when compared to fellows in training. Nephrology attendings still did better in both groups.

They did better than students, residents and attending physicians who did not have access to a Google search engine, or a computer for that matter.

Their findings were presented at the American Society of Nephrology annual meeting in Philadelphia.

“Google.com is a good tool to help medical residents diagnose renal diseases, but it does not take the place of a trained and experienced clinician,” said Dr. Schrier. “Googling a clinical question may be especially useful in the case of rare diseases, but is likely to be less useful in diagnosing more common renal diseases.”

The study compared different types of problem solving, using the dominant technology of our time: the Internet via Google, said Dr. Schrier.

In the study design, they created 100 pairings of common and uncommon renal diseases with keywords related to the features of the disease. They used a standard renal textbook. Then, five nephrology attending physicians, six fellows, and five first- and second-year residents were given random selections of the keyword parings. They were asked to identify the associated diseases. “The residents were given the aid of the first 10 results returned by the Google Search Engine with the input of any or all of the given keywords,” said Dr. Schrier. “The attendings and fellows were not allowed to use Google. The diseases were divided in to two groups: common and rare, and the results were analyzed as a whole and separately as divided groups.” It was crucial to see that “googling” was unable to replace the experienced and trained physician.

Media Contact: Jamie Talan

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