It was very interesting to see the blogosphere activity after several medical bloggers (including me) wrote about how they use Google for medical searches.
As of today, "how doctors use Google" returns 255 websites linking to the article. The story was reported by the search industry watchdogs (Google Blogoscoped, SearchEngineWatch, and SearchEngineLowdown), then it was picked up by medical librarians, and finally by pretty much everybody who was following the field.
Obviously, there was a lot of interest and even a bit of surprise about doctors finding Google results helpful. If you are a patient, you have to face it, your doctor is using Google just like you (or if not yet, will start using it soon). The difference is that the doctors can sort out the false information really fast by checking the source. Most physicians do not even bother to read the stories from commercial websites ending with ".com" URL. The high-quality medical information comes from reputable websites, like NEJM, eMedicine, AFP, BMJ, Cleveland Clinic, and university and government websites (".edu" and ".gov").
As much as I like blogs, nobody should make medical decisions based on a website ending with ".blogspot.com" or ".typepad.com". It is just because anybody can start a blog.
Google is becoming the world's largest library, and just like a library, you can find anything in it. Actually, you know better than me, than the quality of the web information is polluted by spammers and x-rated websites but this is the price that we have to pay for the easy and free access to all that data.
If you are patient, do not worry too much, you can be certain that your doctor is putting your health first. He or she will rely on quality sources like Pubmed, UpToDate and others (some of them accessible through Google) for the foreseeable future. The physician-patient relationship is based on trust and no sensible physician would jeopardize that.
Adam Bosworth, Vice President of Engineering at Google Inc. covers similar topics in: How do you know you're getting the best care possible?
More people consult Google over health - Times Online
How do I use Google? - Kevin MD
Some Great Google Tips - California Medicine Man
How Doctors Use Google
Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask - UC Berkeley
Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education. Boulos MNK, Maramba I, Wheeler S. BMC Med Educ 2006;6:41.
Image source: phdatastandards.info