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The quality of diagnosis and triage advice provided by free online symptom checkers and apps in Australia

Stephen Gilbert, Paul Wicks and Claire Novorol
Med J Aust 2021; 214 (3): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50917
Published online: 15 February 2021

To the Editor: We congratulate Hill and colleagues1 for their timely research on the performance of symptom assessment smartphone applications (apps) in Australia. The apps in the study were selected using structured criteria2 to identify those featuring most prominently in internet search engines and app stores. However, we note that this strategy is biased against an important class of symptom checkers. Because the app store search included “medical diagnosis” and “health symptom diagnosis”, the authors’ approach was less likely to identify many symptom checkers regulated in Europe under the CE (Conformité Européene) Marking system. Specifically, these apps must not describe themselves as “diagnostic tools”, as diagnosis is a function carried out by a doctor. We believe this to be the reason why the CE‐marked Ada health assessment app was not identified or selected by the authors.1 This represents a missed opportunity for analysis, as Ada has been freely available in Australia since 2016,3 and was downloaded at least 200 times more frequently in Australia between November 2018 and January 2019 than either Symptomate or Symcat, which were included in the study (App Annie [www.appannie.com] download data; viewed June 2020). Other studies have found that the Ada app performs well when compared with the other apps assessed, as recently published.4

  • Stephen Gilbert
  • Paul Wicks
  • Claire Novorol

  • Ada Health, Berlin, Germany


Correspondence: stephen.gilbert@ada.com

Competing interests:

Stephen Gilbert is an employee of Ada Health and Claire Novorol is a company director and holds stock in Ada Health. Paul Wicks has a consultancy contract with Ada Health and has received speaker fees from Bayer and honoraria from Roche, ARISLA, AMIA, IMI, PSI, and The BMJ. The Ada Health research team has received research grant funding from Fondation Botnar and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This study was funded by Ada Health.

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