Hey Doc, The Online Symptom Checker Said…… (You and Your Health)

Stomach hurts? Weird pain in your leg? A scratchy throat with a slight fever? What’s going on? Answers are waiting and they’re only a mouse click away. But – can you count on the accuracy of those online symptom checkers? A new study says….probably not.

In the first large-scale study of its kind, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that sites such as Web M.D., DocResponse and others that take user generated symptoms and provide a diagnosis are only effective on the first attempt about one-third of the time.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, told NPR that patients shouldn’t assume an online diagnosis is correct. “These sites are not a replacement for going to a doctor and getting a full evaluation and a diagnosis,” Mehrotera said, “they are simply providing some information on what might be going on with you.” You can listen to the complete NPR story here.

The bottom line, according to Dr. Mehrotera, “It is not nearly as important for a patient with fever, headache, stiff neck and confusion to know whether they have meningitis or encephalitis as it is for them to know that they should get to a doctor quickly.”

Do you use online symptom checkers? Have you ever received an ‘interesting‘ diagnosis? Drop us a line and let us know about it.

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