Google ranks high for health research, but all search engines lacking

The top four search engines all provide "rich" health and medical information, but none of them stand out as the best, according to a new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The researchers, from the University of Missouri and China, compared the top four search engines--Google, Bing, Ask.com and Yahoo!--for usability and search validity. They noted that most people use just one search engine when conducting research on a health-related topic, and then view the websites only on the first page of the search. The researchers wondered if this was the best way to obtain information.

The study used volunteers to search and score the four search engines and the websites provided in the searches for information on breast cancer, using various keywords.

The study found that all four search engines were helpful, but they each had a different focus. Google and Bing were more advanced than the other two. Google had the best search validity in terms of whether a website could be opened. Bing scored highest for usefulness. For all of the engines, there was "significant room for improvement."   

"We suggest that search engine users explore multiple search engines to search different types of health information and medical knowledge for their own needs and get a professional consultation if necessary," the authors noted.

Patient online health research has been on the increase and can improve patient care, but has been known to be faulty. Online searches are also increasingly being used by patients to compare provider costs and by physicians to augment their own research.

To learn more:
- here's the study
- check out this article
- read more about patient searches

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