We live in a privileged world where information is readily available, with Google serving up everything we need via the click of a mouse.

For example, if we’re feeling unwell, we could use Google to find the address, contact number and opening times of our local doctor. This is a simple task for Google and something it does well (most of the time) but in an effort to go one better, Google’s now having a crack at diagnosing your health conditions itself, right from the SERP.

Here’s a screen grab, courtesy of searchenginewatch.com;

google-symptom-search

Google announced the new feature via a blog post last week. But why the sudden need to assume the role of doctor? Quite simply, Google looked at its search data and saw that when users search for symptoms of their illness they then tend to search for the condition linked to those symptoms.

In fact, research suggests that 8 out of 10 Internet users search for health information online, making it the third most popular online activity (behind search and email).

While displaying these results in a users’ search results page could potentially help with self-diagnosis, the system is not without its dangers. Incorrect self-diagnosis, self-treatment and general fear factor are all problems that Google could have to assume responsibility for.

Google’s new feature is a great idea, providing the information is taken as general advice, rather than gospel. After all, there’s no substitution for a one-to-one with your GP.

What do you think – a recipe for disaster, or a potentially life-saving feature?

This new feature is only available in the US at the moment but I can imagine that it will be rolled out to other countries with the next few months.