Doc­tors di­ag­nose bet­ter than apps

The Sun (Malaysia) - - LIFESTYLE -

DE­SPITE all of the health apps, track­ers and mod­ern tech­nol­ogy avail­able to us, it seems noth­ing beats a visit to the doc­tor, ac­cord­ing to re­search out this week from Har­vard Univer­sity.

Car­ried out by re­searchers from Har­vard Med­i­cal School, the team asked 234 in­ter­nal medicine physi­cians to eval­u­ate 45 clin­i­cal cases and make the most likely di­ag­no­sis of the con­di­tion, along with two ad­di­tional pos­si­ble di­ag­noses.

The cases in­cluded a mix of both com­mon and un­com­mon con­di­tions with vary­ing de­grees of sever­ity.

Each case was solved by at least 20 physi­cians, with the doc­tors’ di­ag­no­sis then com­pared with 23 pop­u­lar symp­tom-checker apps.

Symp­tom-checker apps have in­creased in pop­u­lar­ity over the last decade, partly in an ef­fort to re­duce med­i­cal and di­ag­nos­tic er­rors.

How­ever, this new study is thought to be the first to di­rectly com­pare di­ag­noses be­tween hu­mans and com­put­ers.

The re­sults showed that the physi­cians out­per­formed the apps, nam­ing the cor­rect di­ag­no­sis first 72% of the time, com­pared with just 34% of the time for the apps.

In ad­di­tion, the physi­cians listed the cor­rect di­ag­no­sis in the top three pos­si­bil­i­ties 84% of the time, com­pared with 51% of the time for the apps.

The team also ob­served that the big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween physi­cian and com­puter per­for­mance was found in more se­vere and less com­mon con­di­tions, and was smaller for the more com­mon ill­nesses.

How­ever, de­spite their­su­pe­rior per­for­mance in the study, physi­cians still made er­rors in about 15% of cases.

A method of re­duc­ing er­rors fur­ther could now in­volve us­ing doc­tors’ di­ag­noses in con­junc­tion with com­puter-based al­go­rithms.

Se­nior in­ves­ti­ga­tor Ateev Mehro­tra said: “While the com­puter pro­grams were clearly in­fe­rior to physi­cians in terms of di­ag­nos­tic ac­cu­racy, it will be crit­i­cal to study fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of com­puter pro­grams.” – AFP-Re­laxnews

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