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Doctors Beat Symptom-checker Apps in Head-to-head Competition

Friday, November 4, 2016

According to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, when doctors competed against 23 of the most common symptom-checker apps, doctors arrived at the correct diagnosis more than twice as often as the apps did.

The study presented both doctors and the apps with vignettes that provided a patient’s medical history, but no physical exam, blood test or other lab work. The doctors made the correct diagnosis 71 percent of the time, while the symptom-checker apps only got the diagnosis correct 34 percent of the time. In fact, doctors had the correct diagnosis in their top three picks 84 percent of the time, but the apps only did so 51 percent of the time.

For common conditions, doctors’ accuracy was 70 percent, compared to 38 percent for apps. The difference grew to 76 percent versus 28 percent for uncommon conditions. Accuracy came in at 65 percent to 41 percent for cases with low acuity and 79 percent to 24 percent for cases with high acuity.


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