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.

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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.

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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.