A doctor in your pocket

Author: Kate Ferreira

Source: Business Day

If there is a golden rule for everyday Internet use, “Don’t google your symptoms” is a pretty good candidate. Well, that and “Don’t read the comments section”.Despite the huge store of health information online, googling your scratchy throat can be a risky route to erroneously self-diagnosing cancer of the larynx. Yet, clearly not every ailment requires a doctor’s visit.

Ada describes itself as your personal health companion app. Through a fairly comprehensive list of symptom-and context-specific questions, the app guides you towards possible and probable causes using simple, non-medical language.

It asks about the duration and intensity of symptoms before moving to a series of related questions, to which you can answer “yes”, “no” or “I don’t know”.

Some questions offer a further “What does this mean?” link to guide you in answering the more technical questions.

At the end of the questioning, Ada offers you a report based on your answers.

In this way, the app can help you narrow down, for example, whether your persistent headache is likely to be a migraine, a cluster headache or due to tension.

Ada includes info on more than 10,000 symptoms and diseases, and it boasts that more than 100 doctors were involved in the app’s development.

Naturally, its reports are “not a diagnosis”. It does advise users to seek actual medical help to confirm and treat issues.

Having said that, Ada’s real magic is in narrowing down and distinguishing between causes, and since the app learns as it is being used, so users can slowly build up an overview of their general health and frequent symptoms.

Those who suffer from manageable, chronic conditions are likely to find extra value in this function.

In the UK, users can also chat directly to a doctor, and presumably this functionality will roll out to other territories where local legislation allows for it.

Ada is available for iOS and Android devices, and is free for individual users.