Doctors beat online symptom checkers in diagnosis contest

Doctors are much better than symptom-checker programs at reaching a correct diagnosis, though the humans are not perfect and might benefit from using algorithms to supplement their skills, a small study suggests.

In a head-to-head comparison, human doctors with access to the same information about medical history and symptoms as was put into a symptom checker got the diagnosis right 72 percent of the time, compared to 34 percent for the apps.

The 23 online symptom checkers, some accessed via websites and others available as apps, included those offered by Web MD and the Mayo Clinic in the U.S. and the Isabel Symptom Checker in the U.K.

“The current symptom checkers, I was not surprised do not outperform doctors,” said senior author Dr. Ateev Mehrotra of Harvard Medical School in Boston.

But in reality computers and human doctors may both be involved in a diagnosis, rather than pitted against each other, Mehrotra told Reuters Health.

The researchers used a web platform called Human Dx to distribute 45 clinical vignettes – sets of medical history and symptom information – to 234 physicians. Doctors could not do a physical examination on the hypothetical patient or run tests, they had only the information provided.

Fifteen vignettes described acute conditions, 15 were moderately serious and 15 required low-levels of care. Most described commonly diagnosed conditions, while 19 described uncommon conditions. Doctors submitted their answers as free text responses with potential diagnoses ranked in order of likelihood.

Compared to putting the same information into symptom checkers, physicians ranked the correct diagnosis first more often for every case… Read More>>

Source: Reuters

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