BOSTON – Human doctors are more accurate than many popular symptom-checker mobile apps, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School. “Clinical diagnosis is currently as much art as it is science, but there is great promise for technology to help augment clinical diagnoses,” said senior investigator Ateev Mehrotra, an associate professor of health care policy at HMS, in a statement. The study, published recently in the JAMA Internal Medicine, asked 234 physicians to solve 45 clinical vignettes that included patient history, but no results from a physical exam or other test findings, and to name the most likely diagnosis and two other possibilities. The results were compared to the results from 23 symptom-checker apps. The physicians outperformed the apps, listing the correct diagnosis first 72% of the time, compared with 34% of the time for the apps. Clinicians listed the correct diagnosis in the top three possibilities 84% of the time, compared with 51% for the apps. Researchers said developing computer-based algorithms in conjunction with human decision-making may help further reduce diagnostic errors.
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