WebMD Symptom Checker & Other Websites, Apps For Checking Medical Symptoms | Daniel Elmatari, PharmD | RxEconsult
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Evaluation Of WebMd And Other Symptom Checkers Category: Pharmacotherapy by - July 13, 2015 | Views: 42467 | Likes: 0 | Comment: 0  

WebMD symtom checker

Many of us turn to the internet at the first onset of pain, skin discoloration, or other symptoms. Sometimes the medical information we find may be confusing and even cause panic. For example, searching for a likely diagnosis for skin spots may yield some scary possibilities and prognosis. As a result, groups of physicians and software engineers have teamed up to develop “symptom checkers” that help identify the most likely diagnosis from a set of symptoms. These virtual diagnoses are meant to educate and guide patients to seek help from qualified medical professionals. Here is my review and description of popular symptom checkers available on the web and symptom checker apps. 

How Were The Symptom Checkers Evaluated?

I used common symptoms of a sinus infection obtained from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology website to evaluate the symptom checkers. Here are the symptoms used for the evaluation:

  • Postnasal drip
  • Discolored nasal discharge
  • Nasal congestion
  • Localized face pain around the eye and nose
  • Headaches
  • Teeth pain
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

How Did Each Symptom Checker Perform?

Symptom Checker Websites

WebMD

The WebMD symptom checker assists in finding the most common symptom combinations and medical conditions related to issues that the user may be experiencing. WebMD staff developed the information used in the symptom checker. Users may save their information and print a report to show their doctor. A free app version that includes the same features is available for mobile devices.

What I Like:

  • Provided an accurate diagnosis in less than a minute.
  • Listed possible diagnoses with a relative likelihood indicator.
  • Utilized an anatomically detailed human avatar for quick selection of the problem area.
  • Simple symptom selection drop down appears for the selected area.
  • Entire process occurs on one page without loading new pages for results.

What I Do Not Like:

  • Consumers may rush to the first diagnosis that appears while adding symptoms because possible diagnoses are populated in real-time.

Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic symptom checker allows users to select a primary symptom to begin exploring possible causes. The information is powered by Mayo Clinic’s staff as well as other primary reference sources. 

What I Like:

  • Completed diagnosis in only a few minutes.
  • Distinguishes between adult and child symptoms.
  • Utilizes a specific set of check boxes after the consumer chooses the chief complaint.

What I Do Not Like:

  • No option to type in a symptom to begin the diagnosis. Consumer must select from pre-populated list of primary symptoms.
  • No avatar to select the problem area.
  • Lack of visuals and aesthetics.
  • Diagnoses are displayed based on at least 1 symptom match, leading to a large amount of possible diagnoses.
  • No likelihood rating for each possible diagnosis.

Isabel

The Isabel Symptom Checker is based on tools doctors have used for over 10 years. Information is obtained from a database of 6,000 diseases and it links to Wikipedia. It has natural language processing so you can type your symptoms. This tool seems to be more suitable for healthcare professionals. A free mobile version is available.

What I Like:

  • Includes geographic region for determining possible diagnoses.

What I Do Not Like:

  • No lists of symptoms to choose from. Consumers must type in each symptom to generate a list of possible causes.
  • Spelling may affect search results.
  • No avatar to select problem area.
  • Results were numerous and ranged from sinusitis, to drug-induced colitis and brain tumor.

Everyday Health

Stephen Schueler, MD, is an emergency room physician and designer of Everyday Health Symptom Checker. The symptom checker is designed to feel like an emergency room intake review with a series of questions being asked. Written and maintained by physicians, this tool provides information about 3,000 symptoms and is used by VA hospitals across the country.

What I Like:

  • Accurate, succinct diagnosis.
  • Pictures are utilized to aid with symptom descriptions.
  • Audio can be turned on to have an MD (Dr. Stephen Schueler) read the questions aloud.

What I Do Not Like:

  • Single yes/no questions were asked in succession, resulting in a lot of loading time and longer overall process (about 6 minutes for this case).
  • People with slow internet speeds will be frustrated with the multiple page loads.
  • No avatar to select the problem area.

AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) and Healthline

AARP is a nonprofit organization that focusses on healthcare, employment security, and retirement planning issues. A a free symptom checker is one of the services offered through their website. The symptom checker is powered by Healthline.  All medical information is reviewed by a certified physician before being published.

What I Like:

  • Accurate, succinct diagnosis.
  • Description of technical medical terms are provided next to the symptom selection.

What I Do Not Like:

  • Cluttered interface.
  • Adding symptoms requires a lot of loading time.
  • Not as easy to navigate as other checkers.

The WebMD symptom checker is better than the others. It has the most visually appealing interface, is very easy to use, and provides the fastest results without sacrificing accuracy. Everyday Health may have an advantage when the consumer is visually impaired because it has a voice feature. Unfortunately it is manually turned on by clicking the tiny sound icon, possibly reducing any benefit to visually challenged consumers.

Symptom Checker Apps

iTRIAGE

iTRIAGE was created by two ER doctors and has undergone numerous updates to fix bugs and provide a smooth experience. It is constantly updated with the latest information and allows the user to find information about medications, diseases, and medical locations. Information is provided and reviewed by Harvard Medical School and American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists.  A free full version is available online.

What I Like:

  • Utilizes both male and female human avatars for problem area selection.
  • Contains a separate built-in medical reference database.
  • Conditions and medications can be searched in addition to the symptom checker.
  • Content is provided and reviewed by Harvard Medical School and American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists.
  • It has a search function for the closet hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies.

What I Do Not Like:

  • Lack of diagnosis power – the app shows a list of potential causes once a single symptom is selected.
  • No likelihood meter for possible causes.

Symptify

Symptify was created by ER doctors and software engineers to help people educate themselves about causes of symptoms. A facility locator is also included with the ability to alert the facility of a patient’s arrival. A fully functional desk top version is also available for free.

What I Like:

  • Uses a multiple choice and yes/no successive questionnaire that came to an accurate conclusion in three minutes.
  • Uses a percentage system for likelihood of diagnosis.
  • Includes avatars when appropriate, as well as pictures for symptom description.
  • Contains a search bar for your chief complaint, as well as a list of common symptoms.
  • It has facility search for nearby urgent care, emergency room, or doctor’s office.

What I Do Not Like:

  • No ability to search for the nearest pharmacy
  • May take a longer period of time to obtain a diagnosis depending on answers to questions.

Symptomate

Symptomate is created and maintained by a team of physicians. It uses a broad medical database of over 1000 symptoms and over 500 conditions. The results can be sent by email so the user can have access to their report from wherever they are. There is also an interactive online version that is updated frequently.

What I Like:

  • It uses region and risk factors (e.g., high blood pressure, cholesterol; history of diabetes or cancer) in the diagnosis process.
  • A diagnosis is provided in three minutes and uses a percentage system to indicate the likelihood of the diagnosis.
  • It has an easy-to-use yes/no successive questionnaire format.

What I Do Not Like:

  • No symptom selector – patient must type in a list of symptoms to begin the process.
  • Spelling matters.
  • Wikipedia is a source of information for the final diagnosis.

YourDiagnosis

YourDiagnosis is a tool that creates a personal health record that includes allergies, medications, immunizations, family history and medical problems.It gathers personal  health data through a series of questions. The complete personal health record may be printed or sent by email.  A full desk top version is also available. 

What I Like:

  • Provides an avatar for selecting the site of the symptoms.
  • Uses a percentage system to indicate the likelihood of the diagnosis.
  • It accepts height and weight in cm/kg or inch/lb.

What I Do Not Like:

  • Excessive demographic questions for a diagnosis app.
  • Have to create a profile with email and password.
  • It uses nonspecific questions and users have to choose those that apply.
  • Questions were repetitive.
  • It took 13 minutes to provide a list of possible diagnoses.
  • It is visually unappealing and unpolished.

Symptify and iTRIAGE were the standout performers for the apps category. Symptify performed better in providing tentative diagnoses. iTRIAGE’s medical library and facility locator makes it a very handy app for the general public. Symptomate is a poor version of Symptify. YourDiagnosis used the large amount of information gathered over what could easily be 20 minutes to generate a mini electronic health record that may be useful for some people. 

Conclusion

The WebMD symptom checker is my recommendation for people who want to self diagnose. The WebMD website also provides medical information about various conditions. iTRIAGE and Symptify apps offer the convenience of mobile apps and faster loading times. The medical library in iTRIAGE makes is it useful for learning about health.

Symptom checkers are educational tools. Anyone concerned about their health should consult an appropriate healthcare provider as soon as possible. 

Also Read

Review of 5 Top Pill Identifier Apps and Websites



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