With a play on google’s name, MEDgle offers symptom based health information search. The idea is to ‘empower patients in their discussions with physicians’, by making relevant content easy to find.
The navigation is pretty simple and straightforward. MEDgle’s output is a probabilistic list of disease/conditions based on the user input. The content is authored by their 3-physician team and is based on publicly available information available such as the Center for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health. Where probability estimates were not available, they have used their own practice experience to fill in the gaps.
The need for a healthcare vertical search engine is widely realized, and like everything else, it opens up the ability for potential (ab)use with self-diagnosing hypochondriacs. Skepticism aside, I did a search using a common symptom (difficulty in walking, heel pain) and found it easy to navigate to a list of links and information around bone spur and plantar fasciitis. The “Related Local Doctors” section for finding local providers relevant for your symptoms is a neat idea too.
There is an obvious limit to the utility of such tools- Alexia Estabrook’s blogpost talks about MEDgle’s performance for a more complex query. Although that points to the Achilles heel of any diagnostic decision support system today; it’s hard to model the entire spectrum of disease-symptom relationship in an all-inclusive, 100% accurate way. It has more to do with the ever-expanding body of medical knowledge than the lack of technical prowess. That why medicine is a science and an art.