“Is it supposed to look like that?”
“This is normal, right?”
“Should I see a doctor about this?”
We’ve pretty much all asked ourselves these questions at one point or another, and lots of us turn to Dr. Google before we schedule an appointment with our actual doc. Of course, the accuracy of information is crucial – just ask anyone who’s been scared to death by a symptom checker’s suggestion of cancer, only to have a real, live doctor diagnose it as something perfectly benign.
Our advice, just like the advice given in the following symptom checkers, is in no way meant to diagnose or treat any condition, or to replace the advice of your doctor. But when you need to have those questions answered – “Yes, it’s supposed to look like that,” “Nope, that’s definitely not normal,” or “Maybe it’s time to see your doctor,” you can try out our picks for quick, easy, and 100% free symptom checkers.
Our Pick for Most Accurate Information: Isabel
- Strengths: Based on diagnostic tools used by doctors
- Drawbacks: Knowledge of medical terms is helpful
- Platforms: website, iPhone app, Google app
The Isabel Symptom Checker is a free service offered by Isabel Healthcare, a company creating online diagnostic tools for doctors. The company is named for CEO Jason Maude’s daughter, who at the age of three suffered complications from chickenpox that were missed by her doctors. (Not to worry – Isabel recovered, and is now a 20-year-old young lady as of this writing.)
The Isabel Symptom Checker cross-references your symptoms with a database of 6,000 conditions, and ranks them in order of probability, as well as denoting common conditions and red flags. From there, a click on one of the listed conditions opens up a Knowledge Window that links you to several resources about that condition, from Wikipedia to the Mayo Clinic. Isabel even has a tool to help you decide if you need to see a doctor or go to the ER based on your results.
Oh, and as for accuracy of Isabel’s symptom checker? Outside research, unaffiliated with Isabel Healthcare and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found the Isabel Symptom Checker gave the right diagnosis 96% of the time. That’s a good, solid A for accuracy.
Our Pick for Parents: HealthyChildren.org
- Strengths: Kid-specific, easy-to-use, offers care advice
- Drawbacks: Doesn’t list locations or facilities
- Platforms: website, iPhone app
This symptom checker from the American Academy of Pediatrics is all about kids – so you don’t have to sift through dozens of diagnoses that only affect adults. It’s full of advice for parents on how to care for a child with each condition – everything from whether or not you should keep your child home from school to home remedies. It’s trustworthy advice from the authority in pediatrics, so it’s a great, straightforward resource for worried parents.
One particularly helpful feature is the When to Call tab for each symptom group. It lists the signs to watch for in descending order of urgency from “Call 911 Now” down to “Self Care at Home.” Simple, clear guidelines will help scared parents know whether that trip to the ER is necessary, or if they can follow up with the family doc later.
Our Pick for Finding Facilities Near You: iTriage
- Strengths: Easy to use, helps you find closest treatment locations, patient education resources
- Drawbacks: Some scheduling features limited to featured doctors/facilities
- Platforms: Google App, iPhone App, website
This is a user-friendly symptom checker with some serious follow-up that sees you through identifying your symptoms and points you towards the care you need. Once you’ve identified your symptoms and possible conditions on iTriage, the app advises you what type of facility is appropriate for your next steps and then offers you a list of the nearest facilities, each complete with a Google map and directions to get you there. Some of the facilities even have a function that gives the staff a heads up that you’re coming, gives you an average wait time, and lets you put in your symptoms so staff can start triaging your case before you even get there.
Beyond just checking your symptoms, the iTriage app has extensive patient education resources on conditions, procedures, medications, and more. For added convenience, it features tools to help you find a doctor or facility. You can even schedule appointments with some doctors right through the app. It’s a great app for people frequently on the go or anyone who doesn’t want to deal with the guesswork of where to get yourself treated.
Once you’ve unraveled the mysteries of your symptoms, or at least have a good list of questions for your doctor, you might be ready to make an appointment to see a doctor, visit a diagnostic imaging center, or get some lab work done. While you’re getting your physical symptoms taken care of, MDsave can help you alleviate some of your financial pains. Check out our online healthcare marketplace to see the going rate for your procedure in your local area, and maybe even save some money.
If you’re in an emergency, get to help as fast as you can. If your situation isn’t urgent and you have time to shop around, do it! You might be surprised how much you can save while getting those symptoms resolved.
Sources: http://symptomchecker.isabelhealthcare.com/suggest_diagnoses_advanced/landing_page, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324328904578621743278445114, https://www.itriagehealth.com/, https://www.healthychildren.org/english/tips-tools/symptom-checker/Pages/default.aspx