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Diagnosis percents

Given symptoms, offer percent chance of each diagnosis
  [vote for,

Right now, WebMD and Wikipedia are no substitute for visiting a doctor, but why? What’s missing? Either way, you describe symptoms and see/hear a list of potential diagnosis. Why do you even visit a doctor for diagnoses if he has no more information than you can find?

Doctors have one set of information that you can’t find on the web, and that makes all the difference. They know the probabilities of diagnoses given certain symptoms. If your symptoms are headache and dry mouth, he knows that almost all of the people who present with these have an ear infection and only 1% have a brain tumor. This is something you will not find online. Doctors acquire this information not from medical texts, but from collecting data in the field.

For some reason, this data is never written down. No self-diagnosis site you visit will offer it or let you use it. Instead, the best you can do is see a list of differential diagnoses, equally weighted, for your symptoms. They always start with something ridiculously benign like allergies and work their way up to a rare cancer. Maybe everyone is too afraid of the risk of deterring those who may have something serious from seeking help.

The information presented now is incomplete to the point of being misleading in suggesting that all the listed differentials are of equal probability. Who hasn’t looked up their symptoms and been at least a little frightened at having some strange tumor or rare disease? It’s also possible that more people are deterred from visiting a doctor by the grave differentials than those who are encouraged to go after searching and finding something frightening.

I would like a real Bayesian database created of symptoms and diseases which showed probabilities for each differential diagnosis as one checked or unchecked symptoms. For example, I may choose dry mouth and headache and see “65% - ear infection, 10% - pregnancy, 15% - tension headache, etc.” However, if I also add speech difficulties, the percentages would shift to “20% - brain tumor, 20% depression, 1% - ear infection.”

The database could even be improved by allowing entry of age, sex, and even previous ailments to further refine the percentages. The obstacle in creating such software is only getting a reasonable sample of doctors to make notes of symptoms, diagnoses, and a follow-up to determine if the diagnosis was correct.

Lucent, Aug 23 2012

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       //Doctors acquire this information not from medical texts, but from collecting data in the field.//   

       No they don't. They read it or get told it, at least until they've been in practice for a long time.   

       I'm also sure that it's easy enough to find disease incidence rates online, which is the missing ingredient.   

       Finally, are you sure that none of the online self- diagnosis sites rank their results according to incidence?
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 23 2012

       // if I also add speech difficulties, the percentages would shift to “20% - brain tumor, 20% depression, 1% - ear infection.” //   

       … 59% major-league hangover …
8th of 7, Aug 23 2012

       Get data from patients, easier, larger data set. May seem dirtier but they know the symptoms and the ultimately the "end result" diagnosis better. Good idea. [+]
leinypoo13, Aug 24 2012

       This would go great with my Mild Medical Condition Database.
DIYMatt, Aug 24 2012

       2nd on patient input. It's strange to see doctors typing for any length of time during a visit. If the patient were to provide symptoms before the appointment, it might also speed up visits and data for an NHS diagnostic database, for example.
4and20, Aug 24 2012

       The problem is n. Common symptoms commonly associated with trivial ailments will have their associations with serious diseases overestimated. Itchy butt might be associated with cancer, but many people with itchy butt do not report the symptom to any authorities, instead taking matters into their own hands.
bungston, Aug 24 2012

       // associations with serious diseases overestimated   

       Might be wrong, I think what he/it is saying is not:   

       --85% people who have lung cancer had itchy butts. but --.4% people with itchy butts got lung cancer.   

       Even though the 85% might be true, itchy butts cover the spectrum of multiple diseases like banana-deficiency disorder, evolutionary latency deficiency and autoerotic cage-induced exhibitionism.
leinypoo13, Aug 24 2012

       "I'm sorry, Mr. Arknott, but I have bad news. We've found a large percentage in your left kidney."
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 24 2012

       "100:1 it's flesh eating strep". They should show the diseases as competing race horses which change positions based on the daily reporting of your symptoms. Your friends can bet on them and although you may be scared, they will force you to go to the doctor, so they can see who wins.
leinypoo13, Aug 24 2012


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