Symptom checker misconceptions

unnamedKEY TAKEAWAY: Symptom checkers are not meant to self diagnose users they are meant as both a first step to a discussion with a patient’s doctor and a “call to action” that a patient needs to schedule an appointment with a HCP.

According to a Harvard Medical School study symptom checkers, those tools that ask for information and suggest a diagnosis, are accurate only about half of the time.  However, what the Harvard Study is not taking into account is that these symptom checkers are not meant to self diagnose; rather, they are meant as a call to action to alert patients that there maybe a potential health problem that needs attention.


The other part of the study, however, maybe valid in that apps are not a replacement for a visit to the doctor.  There is much more to diagnosing a patient than listing symptoms, physicians also have to be part detective and ask probing questions based on a patient’s past history and appearance. This is a primary reason where online digital health is falling short.  In most cases you can’t go online with a patient for a few minutes and recommend a treatment without first ensuring that the patient is being upfront about their current overall health.


DTC marketers and health websites who use symptom trackers should emphasize, via callouts, that these are not meant to diagnose and that only a HCP can accurately diagnose patients.