Communication fail - when a patient Googles 'how big is a walnut?'

Online search histories reveal invisible gaps in patients’ understanding of their health issues, study shows

Describing a fibrous tumour as "as big as a walnut" may seem like an easy way to convey size to a patient, but not so, according to a new US study.

The University of Pennsylvania research aimed to shine a light on the invisible gaps in doctor-patient communication.

Their study involved digging through the recent Google search history of around 100 adult ED patients to see what information they had searched for about their clinical condition.

The researchers found that health-related searches more than doubled in the week before the patients presented in ED, with some searches used to further explain information previously given to them by a healthcare professional.

One participant asked Google ‘how big is a walnut?’ followed by ‘what is a fibrous tumour’, the team reported in BMJ Open.