When you are sick, it is usually a good idea to search for relevant health information online before you see your doctor. In this way, you can become prepared by knowing in advance both the related medical terminology and the questions that your doctor may ask during your office visit. Nevertheless, this is often a difficult task if you use traditional keyword-based search engines.
For instance, in order to have a rough idea which diseases you are having, both the presence and the absence of certain symptoms can provide important clues (e.g., whether sputum is accompanied by coughing). However, it is challenging to describe the absence of a symptom in a way that traditional keyword-based search engines can understand.
As another example, numerical values (e.g., duration of a symptom) are frequently needed to describe your health situation. Traditional keyword-based search engines cannot well handle numerical values, which creates another difficulty for you to find relevant health information.
When you encounter such difficulties, you can resort to a guided health search engine to find personalized health information via a few mouse clicks. Guided health search is a new concept in the search engine domain, with a simple search procedure that requires no keyword typing. You select your symptoms from a symptom list and answer a few questions. Then you obtain a list of potentially relevant diseases that the search engine found using its built-in medical knowledge. Each such disease has a link that you can click through to reach multiple Web pages describing this disease. By reading those Web pages, you can have a rough idea which diseases are likely to be related to your health situation as well as obtaining some basic knowledge on these diseases.
In case that you have many symptoms, it may not be wise to select all of them in the symptom list simultaneously. Otherwise the guided search engine cannot know which of these symptoms are the most important ones, may lose focus, and thus has to return to you a large number of diseases, many of which may be unrelated to your health situation. To maximize your speed in finding desired information, it is generally a good strategy to start with your chief complaint, i.e., the one or two symptoms that bother you the most. If you cannot find desired information using your chief complaint, you can continue to search using your other symptoms. At any time, you are advised to select no more than three symptoms in the symptom list simultaneously to keep your search focused.
Also, when you reach a disease in a search result page and have question on why this disease is related to your symptom, you can perform a search by inputting both this disease and your symptom as keywords into a traditional keyword-based search engine. This may help you find Web pages explaining the relationship between this disease and your symptom.