An Israeli health fund has a new app to replace Dr. Google – so to speak: there is no MD Google. I’m completely against it.
My father, a very able diagnostician, from way before the Internet, already was completely opposed to patients trying to diagnose themselves by checking medical encyclopedia. “They’ll do from a printing error,” he used to grumble. We were riding a highway when he told me: This viaduct, no one is going to tell the engineer who designed it that he did a bad job. The guy learned for it. But if a physician comes with a diagnosis, everyone has an opinion and advice.
There are more reasons not to let computers have too big a say on if we’re going to see a doctor. My father again: One of the most difficult things of the profession is that the patients have not read the books that should tell them what symptoms they need to show. That is a funny, roundabout way of saying: no patient is a stereotypical case.
As medical student I saw another reason to prefer a medical brain over a pc. Every person with a low continuous fever must be suspected of tuberculosis. The reason is that this is a sickness that can be healed completely but if you forget this diagnosis people may die from it. Overlooking a fatal disease is not so bad. But you should not miss a curable disease that when missed will be lethal. However, it doesn’t work to have a computer say at every persistent light fever: perhaps tuberculosis. That becomes a dead letter. It has to be something in back of one’s mind. But a computer has no back of its mind.
As a medical student, I also once saw a very complicated case of a patient with symptoms that seemed to have no relationship. They were at three different places of the body in different organ systems. After two hours, I knew. There is an illness that can give 18 different sorts of systems that are not related in any way. Most patients have a couple. Then it became clear to me that a computer can’t help here. A computer must find correlations. But the diagnosis here was based on: 1. A lack of correlations; and 2: Not finding anything else. When you get tired, you can think: what if there is no correlation? A Computer can’t think that.
Last but not least, a medical diagnostic device has the same problems as a doctor in the family. It is easy to over-diagnose from too much worry (going to tests for no reason) and to under-diagnose from rationalizing fears away (desisting from medical investigation while one should).
Just go see you doc. Only don’t believe just anything she says. She’s only human too. And tell her if it doesn’t make sense. She’ll think again.