Internet self-diagnosis in hand surgery

Hand (N Y). 2015 Sep;10(3):565-9. doi: 10.1007/s11552-014-9707-x.


Background: Some Internet sites have programs that attempt to help patients find their diagnosis based on symptoms. This study tested the null hypothesis that there are no factors associated with correspondence between online diagnosis and the hand surgeon's diagnosis in an outpatient hand and upper extremity surgeons' office.

Methods: Eighty-six outpatients were prospectively enrolled and used WebMD® symptom checker to guess their diagnosis. We collected demographic information, hours spent on the Internet per week, and the following questionnaires: Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS) and Center of Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale (C-ESD).

Results: Thirty-three percent of online diagnoses matched the final diagnosis of the hand surgeon. Factors associated with an online diagnosis corresponding to the hand surgeon's diagnosis included sex (women) and patients who studied their symptoms online prior to the visit. The best multivariable model included sex, more years of education, and prior use of the Internet to research their medical condition and explained 15 % of the variation in correspondence of diagnosis.

Conclusions: The majority of online diagnoses for hand and upper extremity conditions do not correspond with the diagnosis of the treating hand surgeon. Psychological factors do not influence the correspondence of online diagnosis with the hand surgeon's diagnosis.

Level of evidence: Prognostic, level II.

Keywords: Online medical self-diagnosis; Orthopedic setting; PSEQ.