By Alexandria Hoff


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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Many of us turn to Google when we’re not feeling well. A new study done in Philadelphia shows those searches can actually be used to predict when you’re about to go to the emergency room.

The research comes out of Penn Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. It’s still in its early stages, but researchers are hoping this could one day help them anticipate the care that a patient needs before they even show up.

Have a lump in your throat? Or maybe it’s an anxiety-inducing pain in the left arm? What could that be?

There’s always the general inquest too. Simply put, “Am I dying?”

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Google fields a lot of these questions.

“I want to figure out if I want to pay the cost to go to the doctor, so I might as well search it first,” one woman said.

“I’m like, ‘This probably isn’t good, so I should probably check it out,'” one man said. “Google is the quickest thing to do.”

Historically, medical institutions have warned against seeking immediate guidance from Dr. Google over a trained professional. But researchers at Penn Medicine have found something valuable in their patients’ search history.

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In a study of about 150 emergency room patients who willingly allowed researchers to access to their Google search history, researchers found health-related Google searches doubled in the week before patients visited the ER.

The study also revealed gaps in communication with patients. For example, one subject who had been told she had a walnut-sized fibrous tumor had to Google “fibrous tumor” and the size of a walnut.

Knowing this can help doctors better explain a diagnosis.

“Sometimes you never know about the search on the internet, but the doctor, that’s where I trust it,” one man said.

Alexandria Hoff