There was a TechCrunch post today regarding a new search service from Healthline called Symptom Search which attempts to provide an information service suggesting common illnesses related to symptoms that a user is experiencing.
Symptom Search is a great idea. The challenge is to acheive comprehensiveness such that typical symptoms are accurately and completely mapped (in relevant order) to all possible diseases and vice versa.
Just for fun, I tried a couple of not uncommon symptom searches related to actual problems people I know have experienced recently. For example, one person I know experienced chronic tendonitis in reaction to being treated with Cipro. Unfortunately there were no results in Symptom Search that relate these two subjects.
I also had a recent experience with someone who experienced sudden hearing loss as the result of an ear infection however the system was not able to correlate the two and didn’t serve any relevant information.
Health information search is a technically challenging problem and one I believe requires a search metaphor and deep technology to address in a way that is meaningfull to the consumer. See my previous Lightpseed blog post about Vertical Search as a way to better address these types of research oriented searches.
Also, try the following two searches on the Kosmix Health Search portal (full disclosure, Lightpseed is an investor).
I typed in simple search requests such as “Sudden Hearing Loss” and “Cipro Tendonitis” and got back a wealth of topics and articles that linked these symptoms to their underlying causes and also to potential treatments and doctors.