Are patients going to replace their doctor with an app?

  • Ada, a London and Berlin-based health tech startup just received major funding from Bill and Melinda Gates.
  • Ada isn’t claiming to replace your doctor anytime soon, but patients may do just that which could worsen a serious health problem.
  • A Harvard Medical School study found that symptom checkers, those tools that ask for information and suggest a diagnosis, are accurate only about half of the time.

Let’s be honest: digital health apps, and digital health in general, are getting a lot of buzz.  There are some people that believe that digital health can replace a visit to the doctor, but that could be a dreadful mistake.

ADA, is an AI app that works by asking you a series of questions and suggesting treatment options that could mean consulting a doctor.  But what about Millennials?

A national poll of 1,200 randomly selected adults conducted in July by the Kaiser Family Foundation for this story found that 26 percent said they did not have a primary-care provider. There was a pronounced difference between age groups: 45 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds had no primary-care provider, compared with 28 percent of those 30 to 49, 18 percent of those 50 to 64 and 12 percent age 65 and older.  This is troubling.

Diagnosing patients require an in depth medical history and a trained health care professional who knows what to look for but too many doctors treat conditions not patients and thus apps like ADA are finding a market and investors.

What’s going to happen when a user of one of these apps relies on the information rather than seeing their doctor leading to a possible downturn in their health condition?

These apps are supposed to help patients manage their health but one could easily see where they would be used as replacement for going to the doctor.  Digital health is meant to inform, educate and help people take charge of their health in an era where they feel like a number rather than a person.  For these apps to work the medical community needs clinical proof that they provide better patient outcomes rather than buzz meant for investors.

Then there is the idea that you can send the data to your doctor for review.  Well, today’s physicians are already overwhelmed with paperwork and online time.  If someone is expecting to send data to a doctor, have him/her review it and recommend treatment they are sadly mistaken.  

Digital health can help people manage their health but to what extent is still open for debate.

One thought on “Are patients going to replace their doctor with an app?

  1. I agree that if ADA provides a diagnosis that is wrong, and a patient accepts that as gospel, then we have a problem. ADA is however, a pretty sophisticated App. Having used it several times for self and relations, it’s been very accurate. One because I know the ailment I have, two I work in the industry and can make fairly good judgement calls. But I would never use it as a stand-alone diagnosis and ADA does reco u see yr doctor etc. One has to hope others will do the same!

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