Symptom-based Search (Hypochondria 2.0?)

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MEDgle has been getting a lot of attention lately (Dean Giustini brought it up in a post to Medlib-L yesterday while the post you’re reading now was only half-finished), but it’s model isn’t really new. There are actually a good handful of tools with which one can search by symptom. There are of course questions of efficacy and accuracy- and I know many clinicians loathe to hear patients attempt to self-diagnose…but we’ll put those matters aside for today and do a brief rundown of the tools of this type.

MEDgle starts the user out by entering any number of symptoms and the symptoms’ duration as well as the user’s sex, age range, and whether the user is a smoker of overweight, then having the user narrow the search by selecting body parts or symptoms. The search field auto-completes your search term. When the diagnosis has been determined, search results are shown from outside of MEDgle. Of course, there’s a disclaimer: “Medgle is…is not a diagnostic or decision making tool.”

Of course, this isn’t a new idea to anyone with access to McGraw-Hill’s Access Medicine. Access Medicine, after all, includes the Diagnosaurus.


Diagnosaurus provides differential diagnoses (DDx) of symptoms, signs, and diseases. By using the pulldown menu, you can choose to view entries by organ system, or select to view the list of symptoms only, the list of diseases only, or all of the entries. For example, if you wish to review the causes of a patient’s chief complaint, simply select the symptom or sign from the alphabetical listing. If you have made a diagnosis and wonder what other disorders to consider, select your diagnosis from the list to see its DDx.


Diagnosaurus is also available as a download for your PDA.

Healthline Symptom Search has a really good how it works page. Like MEDgle, it’ll auto-complete your entered symptom, or you can choose from a drop-down list of 50 common symptoms. Also like MEDgle, you can search by multiple symptoms in a smooth, AJAX-y interface.

medicinenetlogo’s Symptoms and Signs doesn’t have the cool auto-completing interface and you can only search by one symptom at a time.

familydoctorlogo’s Search by Symptom isn’t really a search by symptom service….really more of a “browse by a very short list of symptoms” service.

The Mayo Clinic Symptom Checker (also licensed to Revolution Health) lets the user start with a single symptom, then narrow down on potential diagnosis by checking boxes to indicate additional information about your symptoms.

WebMD’s symptomchecker lets the user select a part of the body by clicking on a picture to zoom in, then select a more specific part before being offered a list of symptoms one can add to one’s list.

From here, it looks like Mayo, MEDgle, Healthline and WebMD are all hard at work making “Self-Diagnosis 2.0” where Diagnosaurus, and Family Doctor are way, way behind.

Questions for readers:

  • What’d I miss? I’m sure there are at least a couple more of these I’m not aware of.
  • Would you recommend any of these to healthcare consumers? To healthcare professionals? If not, what would you have them change in order to make them better?

8 thoughts on “Symptom-based Search (Hypochondria 2.0?)

  1. My students really like Diagnosaurus–a bunch of them have it on their PDA’s…

    Google Co-op is a bit of a symptom search engine, too. It puts in refinements for symptoms as well as diseases and drugs.

    This one’s not free, but DXplain is another diagnostic tool that I like. We’ve got a license to it here, and I understand that a lot of docs really like it.

  2. I haven’t tried all of these, but I personally use the flowcharts on the site. I find that these cover most of the common things I would otherwise fret about.

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  5. Ratcatcher, DXplain sounds really interesting. Any chance you’d write a post about it?

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