A study entitled ‘The Ecology of Medical Care Revisited’ from the NEJM of June 2001 graphically shows how important it is to try and guide and influence the patient from a very early stage in order to ensure appropriate flows into primary and secondary care. Encouraging patients to use a symptom checker could be one way to help them at that crucial stage when they are considering seeking care.
The study looks at a population of 1,000 men, women and children and shows how many of those 1,000 in an average month report symptoms, consider seeking medical care, visit their doctor and finally end up in hospital.
The results showed that, on average, for 1,000 people each month:
800 report symptoms
327 consider seeking medical care
217 visit a doctor, of which 113 go to primary care
65 visit a complementary or alternative provider
21 visit a hospital outpatient clinic
14 receive home health care
13 visit an emergency department
8 are hospitalised
1 or less end up in an academic medical centre
Clearly the behaviour of the 80% that report symptoms and 33% that consider seeking medical care has an enormous bearing on subsequent flows to primary and emergency care.
You can start guiding your patients by providing them with the right tools. The Isabel Symptom Checker enables patients to enter multiple symptoms in everyday language and read up on possible diagnoses. Each diagnosis is linked to knowledge from various commonly used resources such as Medline Plus, Wikipedia, NHS Choices, patient.co.uk etc.