The advent of a new generation of symptom checker finally empowers patients to make sense of medical information using their own pattern of symptoms and take greater control of their health. In this new era the patient will be able to work more collaboratively with their doctor rather than be a passive recipient.
The Internet has made vast amounts of medical information available to the general public and is viewed by some as one of the greatest changes that has happened in medicine. However, making information available does not mean that consumers become medical experts. In order to be that, you have to be able to make sense of the information and know what you are looking for. Up until now, this information has only really been useful for patients with a firm diagnosis who have known what to look for. For those who have not had a diagnosis or have not felt confident in their doctor’s diagnosis, the vast amount of information at their finger tips often proves to be overwhelming and frustrating: somewhere amongst the pages of answers provided by Dr Google is the diagnosis….but where?
We recently carried out a survey of 2,000 consumers in the UK; one of the questions we asked them was whether they were confident in challenging their GP or family doctor if they thought the diagnosis was wrong. Over 40% said that they weren't confident and a staggering 66% of normally super confident 18-24 year olds said that they would not be confident either. These findings were backed up by an international survey of attitudes to health by Bupa, which showed that almost a third of patients overall do not feel confident about challenging their doctor about advice or treatment recommendations. In the UK this figure rose to 45%. Confidence is founded on knowledge so this shows that, despite the vast amounts of medical information available, patients still lack the essential skills to make sense of this information and from it research their own diagnoses. Something must be missing.
The missing piece has been the tools that enable patients to extract a diagnosis or understanding from the depths of the information overload. This is where the new symptom checker plays a key role and provide patients with a real opportunity to narrow the current huge knowledge differential between them and their doctor.
It’s a curious situation in healthcare where the patient is the expert in how their body feels yet whose expertise is often ignored or not made good use of. The new online Isabel Symptom Checker will enable patients to enter their symptoms and find the possible causes of the combination of symptoms they are experiencing. It will allow them to effectively put together their own personal differential diagnosis which they can research and then discuss with their doctor.
Now, more than ever, patients must become better informed and take greater control of their health, even if they don’t want to. As old-fashioned text books and diagnosticians will tell younger doctors, the patient will ‘tell’ you their diagnosis through their story. Around 75% of the diagnosis is revealed by the presenting symptoms and confirmation is then made through appropriate tests. With the Isabel Symptom Checker patients can now start making full use of that expertise which they have within them and, therefore, help them to assist the doctor to look after them.