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This month, Archives has two articles which contain the name of that most ubiquitous search engine, and which explore the use of the internet by families. In the first, patients whose symptoms had baffled doctors have had their symptoms googled by family members and have resulted in the (correct) diagnosis of lysosomal storage disease.1 In the second, the authors have tried to assess the validity of information produced by Google in response to a series of simple questions.2 They chose topical and controversial questions which might be expected to produce divergent advice. They were able to grade the reliability of advice given by the type of website, finding that those originating from official or NHS sources (URLs ending in .gov.uk or .nhs.uk) were most reliable. Sites maintained by commercial groups, universities, charities and parent support groups were less reliable.
There can be few areas of medicine which have not been profoundly influenced by the development of the internet. Recently, this journal carried an article about paediatricians in Ireland regarding their near universal use of the internet as a source of information.3 Patient and parent use has grown too—although it is now more than 10 years since Gray and de Lusignan4 suggested a transition from ‘Maladie du petit papier’—used in the past to describe the challenges of a patient who appears with a list of symptoms on a bit of …
Competing interests IW owns a share of Oxbridge Solutions Limited, which operates gpnotebook.co.uk. This website provides medical information on the internet. Both authors undertake work for ADC which is paid a small honorarium.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.