Apps, sites can't replace your doctor

Story highlights

  • One third of sites studied showed the correct diagnosis as the first option for patients
  • The diagnosis accuracy rate for physicians is 85 to 90 percent

There's a warning out today for those who go online or to apps to figure out why they have an upset tummy or nagging cough or occasional chest pain. Symptom checkers, those tools that ask for information and suggest a diagnosis, are accurate only about half of the time.

The finding is from a Harvard Medical School study that reviewed 23 sites, such as WebMD, the Mayo Clinic and DocResponse. One third listed the correct diagnosis as the first option for patients. Half the sites had the right diagnosis among their top three results, and 58 percent listed it in their top 20 suggestions.
Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, one of the study's authors, urges patients to be cautious when using these tools.
    "These sites are not a replacement for going to the doctor and getting a full evaluation and diagnosis," he says. "They are simply pr