So, you’ve got a niggling health issue that won’t go away… but the GP can’t see you again for 3 weeks. Onto the internet to see if Dr Google can help. Sound familiar? If it does, you’re not alone.
Over 100 million health-related searches were made in the UK in the past year. The trouble is, if you enter, for example, ‘pain in jaw and feeling dizzy’ into Google, you’ll get nearly 8 million answers back – that’ll take a lot of sifting- it’s probably quicker to wait for that GP appointment. Or instead, you could try out an online Symptom Checker- if you use the right one, it might just change your life.
Recently there’s been a proliferation of symptom checkers launched on the internet, many of them in the form of a Chatbot which takes you through a long list of questions before finally settling on a couple of diagnoses to consider.
Sometimes they work, but if you’ve got lots of symptoms they can’t cope so well because the type of AI they are based on is restricted. Many ask for your most important symptom, which can be quite dangerous as the tool then focuses on that symptom rather than your overall presentation. Bizarrely, the results can often be different depending on which order you enter your symptoms. Others have a body-map for the user to point to, but where to click if you’ve got fever or lethargy?
The Isabel symptom checker is one that many doctors use themselves- it is free for patients and uses sophisticated machine learning AI. It has been adapted from Isabel’s professional version, which is used in hospitals and surgeries and has been validated over many years.
Isabel allows you to enter as many symptoms as you like in your own words, in one go without endless follow up questions. If you tell Isabel you’ve been somewhere on holiday, say a tropical country with mysterious bugs, its artificial intelligence software will understand that too.
Most importantly, it’s not trying to replace your doctor so it will never say definitively what disease you have. This would be unrealistic AND dangerous. Instead, it gives you a list of possible diseases to research, but this time you’ll only have to consider a handful rather than the millions supplied by Dr Google.
Some illnesses have seemingly benign symptoms. A symptom checker that lets you put them all in, in your own words can work out if together they could add up to something very serious. For example, if you enter ‘pain in jaw and feeling dizzy’ into Isabel, at the top of the list is heart attack; these are classic symptoms, particularly for women.
In a recent poll of 200 GPs, 4 out of 5 said they were so pushed for time, they felt they didn’t have enough time to diagnose properly, so it’s no surprise that we will be sent home with the nagging feeling that there is something else wrong. Using a good symptom checker can help give you a sense of direction if you’re feeling stuck. One Isabel user said: “I’ve been dealing with these symptoms for months, got 4 different opinions from 4 different doctors. Isabel finally gives me a new direction to follow.”
You don’t get much time with your GP, so doing some homework using a reliable symptom checker before a Dr’s appointment can help make your consultation much more productive. If you’ve used Isabel, the doctor will be able to see straight away what your symptoms are, and can look through the list of potential diseases with you knowing that this list has come from a reliable tool Drs already regularly use.
Having a worrying symptom isn’t fun, particularly if you’ve got a long wait to see the doctor. Unlike google, a validated symptom checker will only search using legitimate medical knowledge. Using a symptom checker you know doctors trust can point you in the right direction and will hopefully provide you with a sense of relief.
Symptom checkers aren’t meant to replace your doctor, and a good symptom checker should be able to tell you the right place to go next: should it be your GP or a walk-in clinic? Or, if your symptoms look dangerous, it’ll tell you to get to A&E as soon as possible.
Hopefully, if you’ve got something you’re worried about, waiting three weeks to see your doctor or even longer to sift through Dr Google’s ideas may not seem such a good idea now. Next time you have a health concern, be an informed patient: ask Isabel about your symptoms before you visit your doctor so you can work with them to find the right diagnosis.
Jason is the CEO and Co-founder of Isabel. Prior to co-founding Isabel, Jason spent 12 years working in finance and investment banking across Europe. His daughter, Isabel, fell seriously ill following a misdiagnosis in 1999 and this experience inspired Jason to abandon his city career and create Isabel Healthcare Ltd.