We’ve all done it. Googled a symptom or ailment in the hopes of diagnosing and treating ourselves (or a child) in order to avoid an often timely, and costly trip to the doctor’s office.
Well, new research suggests that may not be such a great idea.
A recent study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine pitted actual physicians against online medical apps, or symptom-checker programs, in clinically diagnosing patients.
Nearly 235 doctors were given 45 clinical vignettes on patients that they then had to diagnose just using the information provided, no medical exams were performed. The online medical resources, or mobile apps, consulted were those offered by WebMD and the Mayo Clinic in the United States, and the Isabel Symptom Checker in the United Kingdom.
Here’s what they found:
Human doctors got the diagnosis right 72% of the time, compared to 34% for the online medical experts.
When asked to rank possible diagnoses, physicians ranked the correct diagnosis first more often than the online tools.
Doctors were correct more times regarding the diagnoses of “serious conditions,” while the computer methods were better at identifying “less serious conditions.”
Overall, it was clear that diagnosis by an actual healthcare provider is a much safer bet than relying solely on an online resource. However, it was agreed that online resources can be extremely helpful to physicians in verifying potential diagnoses with rapidly changing symptoms or in high-stress settings, such as an emergency room.