New technology improves our every day lives, saving us time and money, except when it doesn't. Sometime new technology points us in the wrong direction. A perfect example of this is the somewhat disturbing healthcare trend of patients searching their symptoms online before visiting a doctor.
It would truly be wonderful if we could list our symptoms and get a thorough diagnosis of the problem. Think of all the time and money it would save us.
Unfortunately, the symptom checker technology exists, prompting many people to skip or delay a trip to the doctor, but it doesn't work very well.
According to the NPR article, Online Symptom Checkers Can't Replace the Real-Life Doc Just Yet," by Nadia Whitehead,
"Turns out, millions of people are entrusting their health to some pretty lousy diagnostic systems. Researchers tested 23 online symptom checkers and found that the correct diagnosis was provided first on a list of potential illnesses only about a third of the time. That means symptom checkers are spitting out wrong diagnoses two-thirds of the time."
An incorrect diagnosis from an online symptom checker could cause someone to neglect their medical needs and miss out on time-sensitive treatments. Even more commonly, an incorrect diagnosis could cause patients undue stress as they begin to worry about the ramifications of an illness they don't even have.
Any healthcare organization should continue to encourage patients to take online symptom checkers with a grain of salt. The temptation to google symptoms is strong, but the result is often misleading and confusing.
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