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Health System Management • January 2017

According to the study, the symptom checkers performed as follows: • The correct diagnosis was listed as the first option in 34% of patient interactions • The correct diagnosis was listed in the top three options in 51% of cases, and • The correct diagnosis was listed within the top 20 diagnoses in 58% of cases. It is important that diagnostic technology and symptom checkers continue to evolve and advance, as these solutions are playing an increasingly important role in care delivery and patient satisfaction. Symptom checkers can be tools for consumer engagement and health information education. They can also provide decision-support and improve efficiency for health care organizations and clinicians. By keeping our eyes on the prize of improved diagnostics, the e-Health and telehealth industries have the opportunity to contribute to improved outcomes for patients and reduced costs for health care organizations. REFERENCES 1. Fox S and Duggan M. Health Online 2013. Pew Research Center website, 2013. http://www.pewinternet. org/2013/01/15/health-online-2013/ 2. Semigran HL, Linder JA, Gidengil C, and Mehrotra A. Evaluation of symptom checkers for self diagnosis and triage: audit study. BMJ. 2015;351:h3480 Symptom Checkers Demonstrate Increasing Accuracy Rapidly growing technology shows promising results BY DAVID THOMPSON, MD, CHC, FACEP Thompson is CEO and chief medical officer at Health Navigator, a parttime faculty attending in the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Emergency Department, chief medical information officer for Schumacher Clinical Partners, and an author and partner with Self Care Decision, LLC and Schmitt-Thompson Clinical Content, LLC These days, it’s become common for health care consumers to research symptoms online before consulting a doctor. In fact, 35% of American adults say they use the internet to self-diagnose or to help someone else self-diagnose. 1 This trend in online health research has prompted analysis into the accuracy of symptom checkers, and the results are promising. One notable study was conducted by a team of researchers at Harvard Medical School led by Hannah Semigran. The study2 was designed to determine the diagnostic and triage accuracy of symptom checkers. CORRECTNESS OF DIAGNOSES MEASURED This study2 tested 23 symptom checkers that provide health information across a range of conditions using 45 patient scenarios (not actual patients), equally divided between emergency patients (emergency care required), non-emergency patients and self-care patients. Patient scenarios were used instead of real patient interactions because each scenario had a specific, diagnosable condition to which it was linked. With real patients, a diagnosis may take more time or involve factors that are difficult to control in an experimental setting. Main outcomes measured included whether the correct diagnosis was listed in the top 20 possible diagnoses. 23 WWW.HEALTHSYSTEMMGMT.COM POPULATION HEALTH HEALTH SYSTEM MANAGEMENT | JANUARY | 2017 “Thirty-five percent of American adults say they use the internet to self-diagnose or to help someone else self-diagnose.” WEBEXTRA For further insight on healthcare apps such as the symptom checkers discussed in this article, read “The Advantages and Disadvantages of Health Apps” at www.HealthSystemMgmt.com


Health System Management • January 2017
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