Checking symptoms online is a fairly common step a lot of people to take to determine if they have something that's going to require a trip to the pharmacy or doctor. While there's nothing wrong with getting a general idea of what may be behind your aches and pains, it's worth considering just how accurate online symptom checkers are and whether or not you should really rely on the results.
Evaluating Symptom Checker Accuracy
A Harvard Medical School study found that online symptom checkers were accurate about half of the time. The study looked at 23 sites with symptom checkers, including trusted ones from WebMD and Mayo Clinic. Half of the checkers reviewed presented the correct diagnosis among the first set of results listed.
Seeking Medical Advice Online
A Pew Research Center study found that more than 70 percent of online users check for medical information while browsing. Doing a random search for medical information can produce questionable results. Instead, such searches, including ones that lead to the use of an online symptom checker, should be used as general guide for what "may" be the problem and not considered an official diagnosis.
Considering Quality and Accessibility to Info
When searching for a symptom checker to use, consider the quality of the website. Generally, .org and .gov websites are going to be more reliable. The same is true of generally trustworthy sites and their online directory of medical information. In general, look for other important factors on the website, such as additional medical facts available, along with an assortment of videos, diagrams, illustrations, and other useful presentations of medical info that can help you gather more info that's likely to be reliable.
While online symptom checkers can be useful, such tools aren't meant to be a substitute for a more precise diagnosis from a doctor. Your regular doctor can ask specific questions based on what they know of your medical history and what they're seeing rather than from a database. Instead, use your preferred symptom checker as more of a guide to know when to see what your doctor has to say.
How Accurate Are Online Symptom Checkers?
Posted On: 10-28-2016
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