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Symptom Checker Apps in Acute Care

With a randomized controlled trial the research project AkuSym will investigate whether the integration of symptom checker apps into acute and emergency care workflows improves care provision. In accompanying quantitative and qualitative surveys, we will assess whether and how users plan to follow the symptom checker’s recommendations. Furthermore, we will derive facilitating and hindering factors that should be taken into account when integrating symptom checker apps into routine care.

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In 2020, 20% of Germans used the internet as their primary source of health information. Particularly among patients seeking acute care it is common to obtain information about their complaints, potential diagnoses and suitable care options online in advance to seeking care. As an alternative to “googling“, specific online applications have been developed in recent years: These smartphone or web-based applications, known as “symptom checker apps“, are targeted at laypersons and provide their users with an individual assessment of potential diagnoses and a precise recommendation of the complaints’ urgency. Though research already exists on the accuracy of symptom checkers, currently evidence is lacking on their effects on care provision and the patient-physician relationship. AkuSym aims at generating evidence based on which recommendations can be developed on whether, where and how symptom checkers might improve acute care processes.

Innovations and perspectives

Our research will help evaluate the usefulness of symptom checker apps and provide evidence-based recommendations for integration into acute and emergency care settings.

Project duration

10/2021 - 12/2022