Doctors 1, Diagnosis Apps 0

In the battle of who can correctly diagnose disease better, it seems doctors still have online apps beat. A group of self-diagnosing apps got many less diagnoses correct than doctors in new research published today in JAMA Internal Medicine.

About one in three U.S. adults have visited an online site to check their symptoms, according to 2013 research by the Benton Foundation. Apps and websites “are very commonly used by the average person on the street,” says Ateev Mehrotra, a physician at Harvard Medical School.

In 2015 research published in The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), Mehrotra and his team fed 23 symptom-checkers with symptoms from 45 standard patient cases inlcuding those later diagnosed with asthma and malaria. The team found that the checkers listed the correct diagnosis about a third of the time.

In the new experiment, the researchers compared the checkers’ accuracy to the accuracy of 234 medical physicians, fellows, and residents. For each case, at least 20 doctors provided an online platform with their top three diagnoses.

The physicians listed the correct diagnosis first about 72 percent of the time, compared to the apps,…[Read more]