Has your doctor given you “the look?” The have you been checking Dr. Google look? Dr. Google continues to be a tough competitor for the medical field. And that can be a good, very good, bad or very bad competitor indeed for the doctor as well as the patient. Easy access to the internet offers a wealth of information as never before offered to the consumer with the click of the mouse. But did that click of the mouse bring you accurate information?
Checking Your Symptoms Online – Does It Work?
Yes and no, according to the researchers at Harvard Medical School which conducted the first in depth study of online symptom checkers. Researchers studied 23 online symptom checkers which found:
- 45 patient scenarios were tested (26 common, 19 uncommon diagnoses)
- The correct diagnosis was rarely the top choice, but
- The correct diagnosis was frequently in the top three choices
- The accuracy of the online symptom checkers ranged from 71% to 29%
- The reported accuracy of doctors is 85%-90% (NPR)
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine gives doctors the edge of providing the correct diagnosis %84 of the time versus %51 percent for online symptom checkers.
Where The Online Symptom Checkers Performed Well
The HMS study revealed the online symptom checkers did a decent job of determining whether the symptoms presented were an emergency and to seek immediate care. The symptom checkers had a 57% accuracy rate. A few of the online symptom checkers always suggested immediate care. The research suggested that while 57% is not ideal that type of information is very important to the patient.
Dr. Google’s Online Symptom Checkers Algorithms
Online symptom checkers use algorithms to process the data input. The HMS researchers compared the symptom checker to phone triage with the medical field and believe the symptom checkers perform better than general online medical research and self diagnosis. Reviews of eight online symptom checkers are available here.
The top online symptom checkers:
- Mayo Clinic
The methodology and results of the study were published in the July 8, 2015 of the BMJ . Dr. Google, online symptoms checkers, health apps and online doctor consults are just a few of the current methods data is used to assist a patient, but as always researchers should be cautious in analyzing medical conditions online versus a doctors’ visit.