Business Idea #164 – A Complete Online Symptom Checker

by Byron on August 22, 2012

The Problem:

A collective of knowledge exists about medicine and the human body.  It’s not being effectively amalgamated or disseminated online for the benefit of the patient.

The Business

Imagine if we, as a species, could take everything we knew about a given medical problem and appropriately apply it to any situation in real-time.  What would that look like?

I think it would look like a combination of a patient health log and a a symptom checker.  It would be online.

To build it, start with a massive database of information about symptoms and conditions.  Give it a good interface.  Add the ability to have good crowdsourcing on each case, either for free or for money.

Your potential opportunity is the ability to give a more accurate diagnosis than you get from a doctor.  I’m not overstating it.

Doableness

It’s a massive pool of information, data, cause and effect.  But it already exists.  Anybody who watched the show House regularly could design this site.

Okay, it’s not so simple.  This idea is the opposite of yesterday’s idea.  It’s hard to start this.  You need a large team of docs and other health professionals.  You also need a point person – probably not a doc – to synthesize and decide what and how things get published.

A few exist.  There are symptom checkers from Mayo and WebMD to name two.  I think they are both a joke.  I think they show how medical houses and even web companies underestimate the power of the web.  Let me say it again.  Your opportunity here is the ability to give a more accurate diagnosis than you get from a doctor.

My Thoughts

My GI specialist called me yesterday.  My symptoms: constipation, a gastric emptying study that showed extremely slow stomach emptying, regurgitation, and heartburn.  I’ve already been put on dexilant – that was to treat bad heartburn, acid reflux and my first diagnosis, GERD.  Then the regurgitation started, along with continued constipation.  I made an appointment with the doctor to follow-up.  This dexilant ain’t doing the trick.

My appointment gets screwed up because the receptionist was incompetent.  (Maybe I should have used ZocDoc.)  They acknowledged the screw-up and had me see the PA.  It happens.  He tells me gastric emptying study.  I do it.  It shows me body isn’t processing the food quickly enough.

What’s my issue?  I don’t know.  But I told the doc I’m stressed out.  I told him I’ve been married nine months, I’m having a son in twelve weeks, I’m launching a new company in six weeks and I have a fear that if inflation keeps going the way it’s going, it will cost $400K/year to send my kid to college.  Yes, doc, I’m fucking stressed out.  You think maybe my body is reacting to that stress?

So he wants to put me on some medication to make my stomach muscles expand and contract faster.  I don’t know what the medicine is called.  I don’t know what that medicine’s side effects are.  Once again, we treat the symptom.  I asked him why he thought my stomach wasn’t emptying.  You would have thought I was speaking fucking Swahili.  He doesn’t know.  Why should he?  You think he has time to really get into it with me?

Look, my doc is a hard working man.  He called me back last night at 6:30pm.  I’m not saying he’s not dedicated.  I’m saying he is a product of and a part of the American Medical Industrial Complex.

How can we make this better, right now?  What would make it better?  Let me get diagnosed from a pool of symptoms and diseases and conditions and knowledge and docs and similarly situated laypeople.  Let it happen now.  If we need to study patterns, tell me what information to input.  I’ll put it in.  I just want to get better.

 

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