You are grumpy and you wonder why. So, you enter the word into an online symptom checker and find out that you may be suffering from any of the 82 disorders or illnesses, ranging from an infection of the middle ear or from menopause to dementia or subarachnoid hemorrhage between your brain and the tissue that covers it.


You also have painful joints. Ah, that brings you to a list of 101 causes of joint pain. Maybe it's related to ulcerative colitis. Who knew it could hurt your joints? Or mono infectious?

But you can not find any conditions appearing on both lists. So maybe you have two different diseases at the same time!

This can be the nightmare of an information seeker. Yet, hundreds of millions of times a year, people are turning to online and application-based symptom checkers to help them understand what's distressing them and whether they need to go to the ER.

This is the conclusion of a new study published in The Lancet, which examines both the promises and the reality of symptom checkers. Researchers examined a wide range of studies of digital direct-to-consumer diagnostic tools and concluded, "Overall, the current database of direct-to-consumer interactive diagnostic applications is … uneven in the information provided. and inconclusive. respect for safety and efficiency. "

Beware, for sure.

This reinforces the conclusions of previous studies. According to a 2014 study by BMJ Quality, while human doctors misdiagnosed human diagnoses about 5% of the time – affecting about 12 million American adults a year: "Security, erroneous diagnoses by auditors Numerical symptoms occur on average about 50% of the time. "

In another study published in BMJ in 2015, researchers tested 23 symptom checkers by asking them to evaluate the symptoms derived from 45 clinical vignettes used to teach and test medical students. Overall, the symptom checker listed the correct diagnosis first in only 34% of cases and placed it in the three most frequent diagnoses in 51% of cases.

And another study published that year in Diagnosis concluded, "the research suggests that they [medical apps and online tools] should be used with great caution … The lack of verifiable information about the evidence or expertise used to develop these applications is a major concern.

You will not stop consulting health information online – and you should not. It is only human to go to hand (literally). But not all digital health sources checking for symptoms are equal.

The best (it's ours, we have a bias) was developed for the Department of Defense and is available on the app. (The download is free.) It contains the best questionnaire (s) and data, and is more likely to provide correct diagnoses. In addition, he will send you to a nearby medical center (or a telemedicine connection), if you want one.

Telemedicine can provide personalized medical advice reliably. Chances are your local medical intuition has similar services.

Do not let the results online make you think that you can determine your own treatment. You know the phrase: "A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client?" A patient who has a doctor himself is also stupid.

Get your information online, then call your local technician or your phone for a consultation and / or appointment.

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