Health & Fitness | October 23, 2016 5:00 am

New Research Reveals Doctors Diagnose More Accurately Than Computers

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)


Despite all of the health apps, trackers, and modern technology available to us, it seems nothing beats a visit to the doctor, according to new research from Harvard University.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School asked 234 internal medicine physicians to evaluate 45 clinical cases and make the most likely diagnosis of the condition, along with two additional possible diagnoses. (The cases included a mix of both common and uncommon conditions, with varying degrees of severity.)

Each case was solved by at least 20 physicians, with the doctors’ diagnosis then compared with 23 commonly used symptom-checker apps.

Symptom-checker apps have increased in popularity over the last decade partly in an effort to reduce medical and diagnostic errors. However, this new study is thought to be the first to directly compare diagnoses between humans and computers.

The results showed that the physicians outperformed the apps, naming the correct diagnosis first 72 percent of the time, compared with just 34 percent of the time for the apps.

In addition, the physicians listed the correct diagnosis in the top three possibilities 84 percent of the time, compared with 51 percent of the time for the apps.

The team also observed that the biggest difference between physician and computer performance was found in more severe and less common conditions.

A method of reducing errors further could now involve using doctors’ diagnoses in conjunction with computer-based algorithms, with senior investigator Ateev Mehrotra commenting, “While the computer programs were clearly inferior to physicians in terms of diagnostic accuracy, it will be critical to study future generations of computer programs that may be more accurate.”

To read more about the findings, click here.