A Better Online Diagnosis Before the Doctor Visit

When Rick Ramirez started experiencing sharp pains in his back and legs last year, a doctor was unable to find the cause. But as the pain continued, the 27-year-old Utah brokerage-firm staffer turned to an online symptom-checker named Isabel designed to help patients figure out what’s ailing them.

With an abundance of websites and apps offering similar services, consumers are increasingly acting as their own diagnosticians when they experience a new health problem. That can be alarming for doctors, especially if patients show up armed with a scary list of unlikely maladies from the Internet, demanding expensive and unnecessary tests. It can also be dangerous for patients if they fail to seek expert medical advice for a problem after mistakenly concluding they don’t need a doctor.

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