Does information technology improve medical diagnoses?

In this day and age, computer systems are commonly used to support medical diagnoses. But are these systems trustworthy? This study compares the recovery process of patients having received conventionally established diagnoses with patients whose diagnosis was made with the help of digital systems.

  • Project description

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    We will conduct a clinical study in Swiss hospital emergency departments to evaluate the effect of computer-aided diagnosis systems (CDDS) on diagnostic processes and patient outcomes. We will focus on three common and often misdiagnosed symptoms, i.e. fever, abdominal pain and fainting. In this study, patients will be diagnosed either conventionally, i.e. according to common local practice, or with the help of CDDS. Patients will be monitored for 28 days to evaluate their recovery.

  • Background

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    The health care system is becoming increasingly digitalised. Computer-aided diagnosis systems, which collect data regarding patients' complaints and subsequently suggest possible causes, are a prominent example of this development. Initially, CDDSs were designed to support physicians. In the meantime, the term also includes so-called “symptom checkers”, which provide an interface for patients and directly recommend measures, such as a medical consultation.

    It is not known to what extent the use of CDDSs actually improves the quality of medical diagnoses and thus the health of individual patients. In particular, it is not known whether and how effectively CDDSs work in less structured tasks such as the assessment of common symptoms, e.g. fever, abdominal pain or fainting.

  • Aim

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    The main objective of the project is to identify the intended and unintended consequences of the use of CDDS in emergency medicine.

    Specific goals:

    • Comparison of the accuracy of diagnoses established conventionally or with the support of a CDDS.
    • Comparison of the diagnostic workflow in the above-mentioned groups.
    • Assessment of the impact of CDDS use on economic benefits and the use of resources, and identification of the pedagogical implications for medical education.
  • Relevance

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    Our project will contribute to increased diagnostic certainty. We will determine the implications of the use of CDDSs for patients and the processes in the clinic, and we will derive consequences of relevance to patients, the medical profession, emergency rooms, political decision makers, health insurance companies, educators as well as CDDS manufacturers and researchers.

  • Original title

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    The digital diagnostician: how information technology affects medical diagnoses