Doctors beat online symptom checkers in diagnosis contest


(Reuters Health) – Doctors are much better than symptom-checker programs at reaching a correct diagnosis, though the humans are not perfect and might benefit from using algorithms to supplement their skills, a small study suggests.

In a head-to-head comparison, human doctors with access to the same information about medical history and symptoms as was put into a symptom checker got the diagnosis right 72 percent of the time, compared to 34 percent for the apps.

The 23 online symptom checkers, some accessed via websites and others available as apps, included those offered by Web MD and the Mayo Clinic in the U.S. and the Isabel Symptom Checker in the U.K.

“The current symptom checkers, I was not surprised do not outperform doctors,” said senior author Dr. Ateev Mehrotra of Harvard Medical School in Boston.

But in reality computers and human doctors may both be involved in a…



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