New mobile symptom checker gives more accurate digital diagnoses

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Many doctors warn their patients about looking up their symptoms online because often, they read about the "worst case scenario," and that can lead to unnecessary stress for the patient.

The creator of this new app, called Doc Response, hopes to save time and trauma for both patients and doctors. It's a free, symptom checker that's gaining national attention. When Diane Beasley's youngest child started coughing, she picked up her phone, but not to call her doctor. She first answered a series of questions on doc response about her child's illness. "The end diagnosis was bronchitis with the recommendation you go see your primary care physician."

Without the app, Diane says she would have waited. "So it saved three or four days of this poor kid suffering for nothing."

Houston physician, Doctor Terek Fahl developed the app because so many of his patients were heading to the internet before heading to his office. But most of them were getting wrong information. Fresno mom, Angela Esau says it's just too easy to look up what ails you. "I have done it, gone to Google and just typed in, whatever feeling."

Terica Garret of Fresno plans to use the app to help her husband who's a bit of a hypochondriac. "He thinks every little thing that's wrong with him, is cancer or something. So something like that will definitely help out."

A study in July by Harvard Medical School found Doc Response gave "the correct diagnosis first" 150-percent more often than Web MD and I-Triage. And 300-percent more often than the Mayo Clinic's symptom checker.

Valley family medicine physician, Doctor Ye Min has conducted seminars on medical apps and says Doc Response, can be helpful to keep patients from looking up only the worst case scenario. "If the patient is screened with the symptoms, and then they come to us. That way they reduce an unnecessary panic attack."

And those "panic attacks" can lead to emergency rooms becoming overcrowded with non-critical patients. "What we're trying to do is restrict or decrease the number of unnecessary visits to the ER or a doctor's office," said Doctor Fahl.

Doctor Fahl's goal is to make Doc Response a vital tool for fellow physicians and patients. He hopes doctors, especially those without specialized training, will use the app to help their patients in their own offices.

Doctor Fahl also says the app does not take the place of physicians but puts a tool in the hands of patients to help them make better health decisions. "We'll continue to make strides to make a better product and in the end, really change healthcare."

Doctors also say, medical apps can't factor in a patient's health history, which is often crucial information when determining a diagnosis.

Most physicians say apps are useful to take a preliminary look at your condition but then, seek medical help if necessary.
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