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Research Letter
October 2016

Assessment of Accuracy of Patient-Initiated Differential Diagnosis Generation by Google Reverse Image Searching

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Dermatology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Redwood City, California
JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(10):1164-1166. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.2096

Google users are increasingly web searching medical concerns; these search results hold the potential to influence outreach to clinicians by offering reassurance or generating concern. Accurate web information is therefore critical. For nondermatologic concerns, these web queries are via text cues. For dermatologic concerns, however, patients often lack the linguistic descriptors to accurately inform and narrow their searches. Google Reverse Image Search permits users to upload an image and search for similar images and content. We soon anticipate greater user adoption of Google Reverse Image Search to aid in self-identification of skin lesions, as well as a role for this technology to serve as adjunct to clinical dermatologic expertise, given that patients inevitably do web search their concerns before, during, and after clinical dermatologic consultation. While potentially informative, the results of such searches may generate concern and missed diagnoses may have severe implications. We thus queried Google’s ability to accurately identify similar images with matched diagnoses.

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