Monday, July 13, 2015

Online symptom checkers horrible diagnosticians

If you get a tummy ache and go to a symptom checker site or app and put in stomach pains, British researchers say you may find out what's wrong only a third of the time. (Br J of Med)

Of course, they often also tell you to go to the doctor.

The study of three symptom checkers showed also that when they listed 20 diagnoses--the answer were there only 60% of the time.

Worse, they also suggested tests or procedures that were not needed.

They loaded 45 more or less real patient vingettes--a third suggesting need for immediate attention (such as a stoke), someone who should see a doctor but was not in immediate danger (ear infection), and someone who could care for himself (cold).

They were risk-averse, the study showed--usually recommending checking with a doctor.

Interestingly, the results matched pretty well with call-in checkers.

All were better than Dr. Google. You have to go to medical school to make sense of some of the hits on Dr. G.

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