Research: Symptom checkers’ diagnostic, triage accuracy is low

The accuracy of digital symptom checkers for each triage and analysis is mostly low, which might pose a threat to affected person security, in accordance with a assessment of research published in npj Digital Medicine. 

Researchers compiled 10 research that evaluated a complete of 48 on-line symptom checkers. Half of the research used actual sufferers, whereas the opposite half studied simulated instances. The assessment discovered primacy diagnostic accuracy, or itemizing the proper analysis first, ranged from 19% to 38%. High three diagnostic accuracy, which was evaluated in seven research, ranged from 33% to 58%.

Triage accuracy, or sending customers to the suitable stage of care, was increased, starting from 49% to 90%. Three research examined instances by emergency standing as effectively and two discovered symptom checkers had been extra correct at triaging emergent instances. Nevertheless, one examine discovered triage accuracy for ophthalmic emergencies was decrease than non-urgent instances, at 39% in contrast with 88%. 

“Our assessment highlighted that each diagnostic and triage accuracies had been usually low. Furthermore, there may be appreciable variation throughout symptom checkers regardless of being offered with uniform symptom parameters. We additionally observe that the diagnostic and triage accuracies of symptom checkers, in addition to the variation in efficiency, had been vastly depending on the acuity of the situation assessed,” the assessment’s authors wrote. 

“As a complete, these points elevate a number of considerations about using symptom checkers as patient-facing instruments, particularly given their more and more endorsed position inside well being programs as triage companies that direct sufferers in direction of acceptable therapy pathways.”


Researchers famous some limitations to the assessment, together with using simulated affected person instances and the research’ deal with high-income international locations just like the U.S. and the UK. In addition they mentioned bias could possibly be launched in retrospective research the place info is collected after the occasion, variation in efficiency could possibly be attributed to the distinction between research, and AI-enabled symptom checkers could enhance over time. 

Nevertheless, the outcomes elevate considerations about utilizing symptom checkers, significantly after they’re promoted by well being programs to ship sufferers to the proper care website. The examine’s authors mentioned there are additionally points with transparency surrounding how symptom checkers are constructed and what context, affected person demographics and medical info are used. 

“Given the rising push in direction of adopting this class of applied sciences throughout quite a few well being programs, this examine demonstrates that reliance upon symptom checkers might pose vital affected person security hazards,” they wrote. “Giant-scale major research, primarily based upon real-world knowledge, are warranted to exhibit the satisfactory efficiency of those applied sciences in a fashion that’s non-inferior to present finest practices. Furthermore, an pressing evaluation of how these programs are regulated and carried out is required.”


There are a selection of firms that provide digital symptom checkers. Digital well being agency Babylon, which till recently was embedded with a number of NHS Trusts, gives an AI-backed triage chatbot. The corporate has been dialing back those NHS contracts because it grows its value-based care segment in the U.S. 

Japanese startup Ubie launched its AI-backed symptom checker within the U.S. earlier this yr. It not too long ago raised $26.2 million in Series C funding. Different firms within the house embrace Ada Health, K Health and Infermedica. 

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