How Reliable is Dr. Google Compared to Real Doctors?

Many people hate going to the doctor. We can’t stand the lines, the attitude, and the bills. This is why many people prefer to Google their symptoms in the hopes of coming up with the diagnosis and treatment for themselves. How reliable is Doctor Google as opposed to real doctors?

Starting Point

Sure, Google has become synonymous with obtaining information in a matter of seconds on almost any topic. Googling the symptoms for common cold, depression, and food poisoning may seem like quick solutions to our problems, but diseases are, generally speaking, more complicated than that. There are only so many symptoms our body can go through as a sign that something is wrong, so there are countless diseases and conditions that share symptoms.

The proper diagnosis also depends on the state of individual patients. There is a world of difference between a normally-healthy teenager and a senior citizen, as well as between people with chronic conditions and those that partake in bad habits that damage one’s health, like drinking, smoking, and the sedentary lifestyle. Every patient is different, though there are several common patterns that an overwhelming majority of people can recognize.


Doctors go to medical school. They undergo training and treat patients to an extent even as students. Sometimes, they are so good that they develop a hunch for certain conditions, though it would be more accurate to say that their subconscious can detect things they could potentially miss. It isn’t uncommon in certain communities for doctors to come out of the retirement to continue treating patients due to the fact that they are still the best in their particular field of medicine.

Here’s the kicker – Dr. Google is the collective knowledge of these doctors and a few other experts. However, Dr. Google doesn’t see patients. It cannot discern lies or separate the relevant from irrelevant symptoms. The best advice it can offer is textbook guidelines that are, in many cases, open to interpretation. It also can’t consult other piers if it is unsure of the diagnosis, instead of providing us with all possibilities. The reliability of Google as your doctor has become a meme in which the internet tells you that your headache could be sleep deficiency or cancer, usually leaning towards the latter.

Problems with Patients

One of the biggest reasons you should consult your regular physician instead of Google concerning your health is the fact that we are not doctors. We don’t know how to connect the dots or what to focus on. It is common for the patients listing symptoms to exaggerate or dismiss certain symptoms that can be crucial to getting a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Inexperienced doctors and students often encounter the same problem as ignorant patients, though to a much lesser extent. Theodore Woodward made a famous aphorism concerning this problem: “When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras.” It means that we are likely to jump to the conclusion that the medical condition in question is exotic, rather than common. It is therefore instrumental that we leave the diagnosis to the professionals. They are not always perfect, but they do know a great deal more than Dr. Google.