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SYDNEY, May 18
(Xinhua) -- Online self-diagnosis tools only get it right about once every
three diagnoses given, a new study revealed on Monday, raising serious concerns
for those making health decisions based on what their computers tell them.
Researchers from Edith
Cowan University (ECU) in Australia studied 36 international mobile and
web-based symptom checkers and found that they provide an accurate diagnosis
just 36 percent of the time, with 49 percent accuracy on when and where to seek
With approximately 40
percent of Australians checking their health online, lead author of the
research, Masters student Michella Hill from ECU said the study should make
people think twice before using those tools to treat themselves.
"While it may be
tempting to use these tools to find out what may be causing your symptoms, most
of the time they are unreliable at best and can be dangerous at worst,"
The research found
that other major issues that need to be addressed included lack of government
regulation and the concern that users were given a false sense of security
despite the severely limited scope of online tools.
"We've all been
guilty of being 'cyberchondriacs' and googling at the first sign of a niggle or
headache," Hill said.
"But the reality
is these websites and apps should be viewed very cautiously as they do not look
at the whole picture - they don't know your medical history or other
"For people who
lack health knowledge, they may think the advice they're given is accurate or
that their condition is not serious when it may be," she added.
Despite the obvious
conclusion that online symptom checkers can not replace real doctors, the
study's authors found that they may actually have a place in the modern health
"These sites are
not a replacement for going to the doctor, but they can be useful in providing
more information once you do have an official diagnosis," she said.