How one doctor uses Google in his medical practice

A recent study (via Clinical Cases and Images), suggested that many turn to the search engine first for information on their health:

Google, the internet search engine, has now become one of the patientÂ’’s best friends, second only to the family doctor.

A survey of 1,000 people found that 12 per cent turn first to Google. Fewer consult family and friends, the media or medical encyclopaedias when faced with a medical problem.

The internet is consulted by 21 per cent as the first port of call. Some use search engines other than Google and some log on directly to other websites . . .

. . . Most Googlers believe that the information they find is accurate. While 94 per cent trust their GP, nearly as many (86 per cent) believe that what they find from a Google search is accurate.

This number will likely increase. With physician access being more of a problem, more and more will turn to the internet for health information.

In my prior life as a Google Answers Researcher, I have spent a fair amount of time on Google answering health questions, and it does organize some great health information. It also plays a significant role in my daily office routine.

My main source of information is UptoDate, which is used on an hourly (if not more frequent) basis. I have been familiar with it since medical school, and it is simply indispensable. For cases that are not found there, I typically use Google as the next step. Many urgent care or surgical issues can be found with greater detail on eMedicine. Simply querying Google a topic, followed by “emedicine”, can bring up the appropriate article from that site.

Patient information sheets are also easily found on Google. I typically like Medline Plus. Again, querying Google a topic, followed by “NIH” (standing for National Institutes of Health), will bring the appropriate patient information sheet from Medline Plus.

Finding ICD-9 codes can be done easily with Google. My HealthMatics EMR requires an ICD-9 code before anything can be done. Unfortunately, we all know how arcane some of the codes can be. For instance, tinea pedis is known as “dermatophytosis of the foot (110.4)” and osteopenia is known as “bone and cartilage disorder, unspecified (733.90)”. Not very intuitive. Yes, you can use various ICD-9 databases, but you can also Google for the appropriate code by adding “icd9″ to the query. Voila.

With such heavy use of Google, it needs to be on the toolbar for easy access. You can download the Google Toolbar if you use Internet Explorer, or you can do the smart thing and switch to Mozilla Firefox.

Any other docs who have tricks and tips incorporating Google into their daily life? I’d be interested in hearing them.

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  • Clinical Cases and Images

    Excellent roundup! Thank you Kevin.

    This is among the reasons why your blog was the first medical blog I subscribed to.

    I use Google plus “eMedicine” in the search field just as you described it. It works the same way with “AAFP” (American Family Physician) or “Merck” (for Merck Manual) in the search box.

  • ZZ

    Hey, where’s your disclosure? Do you own google stock?

  • Dex

    Medical student reporting.

    Absolutely agree.

    eMedicine has been a stalwart source for me, primarily because I can access it from any internet-equipped computer, unlike UpToDate. It gives good drug information also.

    However, I did not use eMedicine for my surgery rotation–not enough surgical detail for management, however plenty for recognition enough for a referral.

    I am using it now for presentations. Google image search is very helpful for that, especially in radiology and pathology.

    Still though for most answers I use Tarascom, pocket pharmacopoeia, CMDT , and 5 minute clinical consult for the palm. Quick for one-off answers.

  • Jeff Barson

    Excellent post. My brother in law works for Google in their academic division. I’m sending him a link.

  • DrPak