The report explores the wide variation in efficacy across several digital symptom checker tools available in the market today. These tools purport to analyse a user’s symptoms to triage patients, provide a diagnosis, and suggest the most appropriate treatment pathway.
When built and deployed properly, these tools can address some of the major challenges facing medical professionals today, including staff shortages and long wait times for treatment. However, they can also have an adverse effect if a symptom checking system calculates a diagnosis that is not appropriate or does not suggest an appropriate care pathway.
Significant room for improvement
The peer-reviewed research, which set out to test symptom checker tools already available on the market, was conducted by specialist data consultancy, Methods Analytics. Researchers ran a series of 50 clinical cases through 12 publicly available symptom checkers to test their efficacy. The overall result showed significant room for improvement, with the correct diagnosis being present in the top five diagnoses in 51 per cent of cases.
Dr Ben Littlewood-Hillsden, Chief Medical Officer of Doctorlink, said: “With the onset of the pandemic, the adoption of digital health tools, including online symptom checkers, has grown dramatically – and that is a positive development in terms of what such tools can bring to both the patient experience and clinical capacity.
“The challenge for online symptom checkers, which this report clearly highlights, is the fact it is a fragmented area of the healthtech market. Whilst intelligent tools are indeed helping some of the UK’s 3,000 or so clinical centres to diagnose and triage their patients accurately and safely, others exist in the market that are unable to do so – and some even claim to use AI when they do not.”
Meanwhile, a study released by Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation earlier this year, highlights how digitisation of health services can improve access to care, quality of care and user engagement.