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Diagnostic accuracy of doctors vs. symptom checkers

Pennsylvania residents sometimes use online symptoms checkers to try to self-diagnose themselves when they are experiencing health problems. A study reports that doctors are more accurate than online symptom checkers are, but they still make diagnostic errors in around 15 percent of cases involving common conditions.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School tested doctors' accuracy in diagnosing patients based on different scenarios against online symptom checkers. The symptom checkers use algorithms in order to provide diagnoses and are very popular. The researchers used 45 different case scenarios. The accuracy of 234 doctors was compared to the accuracy of 23 different online symptom checkers for a variety of different conditions.

Doctors listed the correct diagnosis the first time in 72.1 percent of the cases while the online symptom checkers did in 34 percent of the cases. While doctors performed much better than the symptom checkers, they still gave the wrong diagnosis in 15 percent of the cases. Another study that was published in 2014 found that around 12 million Americans experience diagnostic errors on an outpatient basis each year. The study found that around half of the errors were potentially harmful.

While people may use online symptom checkers, they shouldn't rely on the information from them. When they go to the doctor, they might want to get second opinions if the diagnosis they receive doesn't seem accurate or raises questions. A medical malpractice lawyer may help people who have been misdiagnosed and who have suffered harm as a result through the filing of a lawsuit against the negligent practitioner.

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