A better digital diagnosis

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On-line symptom checkers are available and are useful to patients.   Just input your symptoms, get your diagnosis, call for an appointment, and get your treatment.  Sounds good; possibly too good.

However, before you jump in to get a diagnosis for what ails you try a test run.  OK, this is not a double blind experiment but worth your time.  The idea is to look up the details of a known disease then enter the published symptoms in the symptom checker and see what comes out.  You will find a huge variation, often the expected diagnosis does not even show up at all!

For example:  plantar faciitis.  This is a common disease of the foot caused by inflammation of the connective tissue in the sole of the foot especially causing pain just in front of the heel bone.  The striking and often diagnostic symptom is heel pain on first getting out of bed and walking.  The pain gets better after a few minutes of walking.  It is common in runners and people who spend lots of time standing.  Being overweight or wearing hard-sole shoes contributes.  As people get older the natural padding of the sole thins which is probably why the problem is common after age 50.

footpain

 

Once you have tested any symptom-checker and understand the limitations they can be helpful.  It’s almost like a second opinion about a problem.  Discuss the findings with the health care provider early in an office visit — don’t spring the information after the provider makes a plan.  Be a team player to prevent being at odds with the provider.

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