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Research Letter |

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

Julia D. Ransohoff, BA1; Shufeng Li, MS1; Kavita Y. Sarin, MD, PhD1
[+] Author Affiliations
1Department of Dermatology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Redwood City, California
JAMA Dermatol. Published online June 29, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.2096
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This study examines the ability of Google’s Reverse Imaging Search to accurately identify similar images with matched diagnoses for dermatalogic concerns.

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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Representative Images of 4 of the 10 Conditions Searched

Representative images of 4 of the 10 conditions searched, including malignant lesions: basal cell carcinoma, melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and premalignant lesions: actinic keratosis and squamous cell carcinoma in situ. Not shown are the 6 searched benign lesions: benign nevus, angiokeratoma, dermatofibroma, hemangioma, nevus spilus, and seborrheic keratosis.

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