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Google to start highlighting health information in search results

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While Google searches on health matters can often prove useful, they can also lead you to believe you have a terminal illness when you don’t.

And with 1 in 20 inquiries on the Web giant’s search engine relating to health issues, that means there must be a lot of stressed people out there wondering if they’re going to make it to the end of the month when actually they’ll be making it to the end of many more months yet.

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Mindful of people’s penchant for health-related Web searches, Google is setting out to offer up results in a more organized fashion, with links to information that’s first been reviewed by medical experts.

Links to the approved content will soon start appearing prominently at the top of the results page, giving users fast access to the information they’re looking for.

“We’ll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is – whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more,” Google’s Prem Ramaswami explained in a blog post. “For some conditions you’ll also see high-quality illustrations from licensed medical illustrators. Once you get this basic info from Google, you should find it easier to do more research on other sites around the Web, or know what questions to ask your doctor.”

Ramaswami is keen to point out that while the highlighted information will hopefully “empower you in your health decisions by helping you learn more about common conditions,” anyone with a medical concern should really see their doctor rather than attempt to self-diagnose using Google.

Still, displaying fact-checked medical information more prominently seems like a smart move by the Web company, and one that will hopefully calm a user’s internal worries about a particular condition, or confirm that a speedy visit to the doc is in order.

The new feature is being rolled out in the U.S. in the next few days, with more countries and medical conditions added over time.

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