Google has moved from being an information search engine to a knowledge hub. Since 2012, Google established the use of linked data for users to easily access related information from the search queries they have. It is indeed very useful and interesting for the public as they can get information much quicker and more conveniently. According to recent studies, Google found out that 1 in every 20 searches are about healthcare related issues. This has prompt Google to come out with the idea of bring medical knowledge to the existing knowledge graph. When type in any medical terms (laymen terms or jargon), Google will come out with three different tabs which are ‘About’, ‘Symptoms’ and ‘Treatment’. However, Google mentioned that this knowledge graph is useful for users to get more information instead of replacing doctors. But, how valid and reliable are all these information? Will patient self-diagnose themselves more and more as they lose trust in the mainstream traditional medical system?
One of the benefits for patients using this knowledge graph is that they will gain a more thorough understanding of their diseases before and after their consultation with licensed medical doctors. They can read about the definition of disease, how prevalent it is, what risks predispose them to the disease, and some demographic information about the illness. Besides that, they can also match the symptoms they have with the common symptoms provided thus giving them a more directed and informative diagnosis about the disease. Also, some common home remedies, over-the-counter medicine as well as complementary alternative medicine are also provided within the knowledge graph. Besides giving patients some reliefs and assurances it is also a way to develop health literacy and spreading of awareness about some common symptoms.
However, if patients do not use the information correctly, it can bring detrimental effects to patients as sometimes symptoms might be similar for different diseases. They might mistakenly thought that they have common flu when in fact they have a deadly influenza infection. Some people might miss the window opportunity to treat the disease because they thought the information online is reliable and is appropriate for them and that their illness is not serious. Therefore, all medical facts in the knowledge graph are actually validated by around 11 consultants in Google medical team with collaboration such as Mayo Clinic. Moreover there are also other implications for patients, healthcare provider and business field, nevertheless.
It is definitely a great move by Google to provide this information link and knowledge sharing among internet users and hopefully this can bring more benefits to the general well being of patients and generate better doctor-patient relationship as health literacy level increases and insightful communications generated.