Just about everyone's done it. Whether it was a crushing headache, a pain in the knee, a swollen toe or blurry vision, chances are your first instinct was to turn to the web for answers. In fact, more than 80% of adults in the United States have searched the internet in attempts to figure out what was making them feel ill and how to make the pain subside. There's no denying that taking medical diagnosis into our own hands is a growing trend that shows no signs of waning. But, although internet access has provided the opportunity to access copious health information in just seconds, this access has made it more important than ever to be able to discern which sources are credible, how to have a critical eye when scanning online info, and when it's time to walk away from the screen and consult an experienced physician.
The Perils of Self-Diagnosis Through Online Search
As frequent health-searchers know all too well, a common side effect of conducting internet research on your own conditions is the all-encompassing fear that comes from the fact that searching through causes for seemingly innocuous conditions often leads to finding articles linking them to some serious worst case scenarios. Conditions that were traditionally treated by an over-the-counter pain reliever and forgotten, can now be the cause of weeks of worry and paranoia.
Paradoxically, the opposite is also true. Propelled by stories of friends overreacting to potential diagnoses they found online, some people are choosing to downplay serious symptoms and put their long-term wellbeing at risk.
While not every internet search for a condition yields potentially terrifying or irrelevant results, many do. This leaves people perplexed, scared, convinced they have a rare, life-threatening condition, or ready to just give up the whole quest for information and try to ignore their symptoms. Simple internet searches are not built for solid, evidence-based medical information. However, while a consultation with a medical care professional is always the best solution for figuring out what's causing your pain or discomfort, you don't need to fully give up on internet research because, fortunately, tools like Online Symptom Checkers and AI Health Assistants can help you navigate through the maze of online info.
What are Online Symptom Checkers?
Online symptom checkers are websites or apps specifically dedicated to helping people track down the root cause of the symptoms they are experiencing. They amalgamate research on an incredibly wide variety of health topics, typically making sure that it is well-researched and sourced from credible publications. Because of their typical trustworthiness and general comprehensiveness, online symptom checkers reduce some of the issues that come with just turning to Google for health information. Namely, they help searchers by providing them with accurate descriptions of health conditions and by giving them a wide variety of credible options to consider.
Online symptom checkers typically take the form of long web pages with detailed lists of potential causes for common symptoms. Because of this format, their comprehensive nature can work against them. They can yield scores of potential conditions in response to input from information-hungry individuals, overwhelming searches and making it difficult for them to figure out which of the listed options most closely resembles their condition.
Individuals with emergency life-threatening conditions who correctly identify the condition linked to their symptoms may find an extra impetus to go to the ER based on the results from on online symptom checker. However, if they incorrectly choose to believe they are suffering from a milder option on the cause list, their condition could worsen significantly. On the other end of the spectrum, people with minor health problems may be advised to go to the ER unnecessarily, resulting in needless increases in time and costs for both the hospital and the patient.
So, what's the best course of action for those who want to research their condition without falling prey to the inaccuracies of the internet at large or the paranoia-inducing tendencies of typical online symptom checkers? Perhaps the answer is to avail themselves of the newer version of online symptom checker---the AI Health Assistant.
What is an AI Health Assistant?
AI Health Assistants are an emerging diagnosis technology that is enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI). Such a system can be of better service by leveraging advanced machine learning algorithms to deliver a more personalized and accurate analysis of what the medical problem could be.
Unlike typical online symptom checkers that use simplistic decision trees to diagnose what may be wrong, the AI health assistant uses an advanced machine learning algorithm that incorporates a person's real time answers to targeted, information-generated questions to more quickly and accurately identify the potential health condition. For example, an AI Health Assistant may ask a searcher for their gender, age, race, and other demographic information in order to only surface possible diagnosis options that someone in that specific group is likely to experience. Through this methodology, surfaced possibilities can be narrowed down to 3 conditions, rather than an overwhelming 25.
AI Health Assistants also improve upon traditional online symptom checkers through one other major factor: over time, the program educates itself based on the accuracy of past diagnoses and continues to better the quality of the information it provides users. By having searchers check back in about the accuracy of the diagnoses provided to them, the AI technology recalibrates the chances of surfacing certain diagnoses again in similar search queries. This means that by using an AI Health Assistant, you are not only getting more accurate results because of someone else's input, but also helping refine the information and make it more accurate for users who proceed you.
So, Which Is the Solution for You?
Online symptom checkers and those that are integrated with an AI Health Assistant both provide more information to individuals seeking answers to an ongoing or immediate health concern. And both are superior than a simple internet search in terms of accurate, helpful results. But it's important to remember that they are only a starting point that leads to more informed consequent action, rather than a final solution.
However, when it comes to selecting just a single online resource, AI Health Assistants take the lead. Check out the chart below for a handy round-up of the advantages of both online options.
|Online Symptom Checker||AI Health Assistant|
|Provides wide range of potential conditions to queries||Provides narrow, targeted range of potential conditions to queries|
|Can positively influence the timing of seeking medical help for symptoms||Can positively influence the timing of seeking medical help for symptoms|
|Can facilitate patient-physician communication||Can facilitate patient-physician communication|
|Can help assess severity of potential condition||Can help assess severity of potential condition|
|Can help identify next steps to be taken||Poses targeted, thorough questions to submitted responses|
|Can help identify next steps to be taken|
|Can understand real world language (rather than medical language) used in queries|
|Provides quick analysis of responses to queries|
Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.