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Healthline Launches Symptom Search

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Especially for the hypochondriac in all of us, Healthline.com unveiled its new Symptom Search product this week. The "search-driven symptom exploration tool" pulls data from the Centers for Disease Control and from medical reference libraries.

In all, says the company, 3,500 symptoms and 900 diseases are documented. Healthline says that’s ten times the number of symptoms covered by WebMD or MayoClinic.

It seems simple enough. A person types in a symptom or collection of symptoms and the engine brings back all matching diagnoses. My main symptom brought back three pages of results. It’s probably the first one. Visitors can also keep a personalized list of symptoms to help narrow down the results.

“As a physician and heavy Internet user, I know that my patients are increasingly using the Web to research symptoms – it’s a great way, in the privacy of your own home, to explore topics you think you may want to talk to your doctor about,” said Enoch Choi, M.D., a family practice physician based in Palo Alto, Calif.

Healthline, a company that prides itself on its walled garden approach to health research by including only doctor-reviewed articles instead of the entirety of Web sources. The company says its new Symptom Search is set apart from other research tools because it uses a search-driven approach rather than static "interview formats," which, according to their numbers, only retrieve one-tenth of the number of symptoms and one-fifth of the number of possible causes.

Similar to Google’s Suggest feature, Symptom Search has a type-ahead feature that suggests ways to narrow it down. For example, if a person types in "cough," types of coughs like "painful cough" or "hacking cough" will be presented.

“Symptom Search offers a much more interactive, useful way for individuals to research health concerns, helping prepare them for conversations with their physicians,” said Paul Auerbach, M.D., clinical professor of Emergency Medicine at Stanford University and chair of Healthline’s Medical Advisory Board.

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  • tonygentile

    Hey Jason -

    A quick thank you to you for your coverage of Symptom Search; looks like you had a good experience with it.

    Two quick notes:

    1. The link to SS at the beginning of your article actually points back to the article itself; looks like the link is slightly malformed.

    2. We’re definitely not a walled garden! We license and host (and produce) some of the best health content on the web, but also search over 200K health web sites to bring back the best and most authoritative results for users/patients. We believe this hybrid approach gives users a solid starting point (licensed content) and freedom of choice (open web) to find and verify the health information they need.

    I wrote a small bit on Symptom Search on my personal blog, for those who might be interested in reading more:

    http://www.buzzhit.com/2007/02/symptom-search.html

    Many thanks again,
    Tony Gentile
    VP Product, Healthline

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