What’s App, Doc?
At some point in your life, you’ve probably been sick or had a minor injury. Before the advent of smartphones and even the Internet, when this happened you would schedule an appointment with your doctor. Now, however, people are turning to websites and apps to diagnose their medical maladies. But before you do, you should be aware that an article on Kaiser Health News titled, The App Will See You Now, But May Not Get The Diagnosis Right, and also on CNN.com titled, Apps, sites can't replace your doctor, warns that these tools are only accurate half the time.
Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, one of the authors of a Harvard Medical School study that reviewed 23 websites, including WebMD, the Mayo Clinic, and DocResponse, said that while these websites may provide information on what’s going on with you, they should not replace getting a full evaluation and diagnosis from an actual doctor. Plus, there may be regional issues going on (e.g., an outbreak of the flu) where your local doctor will be more aware of this versus software running on a server at some unknown location.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid these websites and apps altogether, but they should be used with caution. In fact, using these tools can lead to you being better informed about your potential condition and asking better questions when you visit a physician. These tools can also reduce the number of unnecessary doctor visits. Knowing that the diagnostic tools on an app or website are only as good as the person using them, a person can then formulate whether their condition warrants seeing their doctor. For those who have an iPhone, this is not the time to ask Siri what to do!
Also, just because you have used these diagnostic websites and apps, or even gone as far as doing additional research on the Internet, doesn’t instantly make you a qualified medical professional. Take this knowledge and then work together with your doctor to come up with treatment options. Furthermore, some conditions may require immediate medical attention. If you break a bone, have chest pains, or some other serious condition, then you should not waste precious time by searching the Web.
Like your car, it doesn’t matter if you know what’s wrong with it if you can’t fix the problem. People will still need a physician to perform tests, properly treat their condition, and write a prescription. No matter how much you may love technology and/or science fiction, we’re still a long way off from replacing doctors with robots.