Sunday, July 26, 2015

News You Can't Use: Online Symptom-Checkers are Often Wrong

With the high cost of affordable health care for all, including that poor little boy with sick parents or whatever who vanished never to be seen again after the bill passed, it makes sense that you'd want to find alternative ways to diagnose and treat your rapidly putrefying body. Traditionally these methods include straightforward interventions like checking every inch of the body for the devil's mark, kidnapping medical students and pumping them for information and gleaning as much knowledge as possible from 2 am infomercials. However, in case you forgot, we live in an age of high technology and information, which explains all the intellectualism in our popular culture. Clearly, internet doctoring is the future, but what if it's wrong? Is it time to panic?

Online symptom checkers often misdiagnose patients’ problems, often encouraging people to seek care for minor issues that don’t need immediate attention and other times incorrectly telling people with true emergencies that treatment can wait, a U.K. study suggests.

Next you're going to tell me internet dating is not an ideal way to meet attractive, successful and mentally stable life partners.

The apps were imperfect at best, offering the correct diagnosis on the first try only about a third of the time.

Stop sawing off your own arm, the hand-phone might be wrong about that advanced stage leprosy.

For triage - assessing the urgency of the problem - the apps were too cautious in situations requiring only self-care: only 33 percent of the time, on average, were patients appropriately advised not to go to the doctor.

Suggestive alternative: writing "you'll be fine, quit complaining" on a scrap of paper and looking at it every time the old hypochondria starts acting up.

At the other extreme, symptom checkers typically missed the severity of the situation in one of every five cases requiring emergency treatment.

It gets everything wrong in every possible way. That's what we're trying to say.

“The risk is that people will be told to get care when they didn’t need it and bear the costs and inconvenience, or they will be told not to seek care when they have a life-threatening problem,” senior author Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, a health policy researcher at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said by email.

No, not inconvenience! Spare me that horrible fate. I'll just stuff everything back in the old split middle, duct tape it over and hope for the best.

The software listed the right diagnosis first in 24 percent of emergencies on average, and for 40 percent of non-urgent cases. Accuracy was better for common than for rare diagnoses.

If it's a head cold it probably gives good advice. If you think your skeleton is trying to escape through your mouth, maybe see the saw-bones.

The app that did best at giving the correct diagnosis on the first try was, at 50 percent.

Doctor Coin-flip is here to help.

Yes, but can it make phone calls?

One limitation of the study is that it used specific clinical language to describe medical conditions in the test vignettes, which may not provide an accurate reflection of how the symptom checkers would perform for patients using nonclinical terms to describe their conditions, the authors acknowledge in the British Medical Journal.

I'm sure you'd get much better results if you typed in "Headbone ain't be right."

In some situations, symptom checkers are never a good idea, Wyatt said by email. 

The logical sentence structure equivalent of a doctor's handwriting.

“Don’t waste your time surfing, call 911,” Wyatt said.

I don't care that my left arm is tingling, there's a curl to shoot. 

Non-urgent patients “can probably afford to spend a few minutes checking symptoms online,” Wyatt said.

Let's not get carried away. 

Komment Korner

My experiences with doctors are useless at best.

Who are we to trust?

I have to ask because many times I take my son to the doctor and they say he's got said 'problem' here with NO testing.

I ended up with fatal pancreatic disease

I wonder how many doctor use these

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here. 

No comments:

Post a Comment