Monthly Archives: March 2017

iMedicalApps: VR Helps Bedridden Patients See Outside World

Multiple synched headsets allow whole families to participate
• by Brian Chau MD
March 23, 2017
An MIT startup, Rendever, is providing the opportunity for elderly patients with restricted mobility to experience the outside world through virtual reality.
Rendever’s concept combines the use of multiple mobile VR headsets (appears to be a version of Samsung Gear VR), custom software, and a tablet. Caregivers use the tablet to control the headsets, while the custom software syncs the VR headsets together. This allows several users to venture together within the virtual environment that includes childhood homes, tropical getaways, sporting events, or even family gathering events. Each different scenario is custom created by Rendever, and the concept won the company the $25,000 top prize at the MIT Sloan Healthcare Innovations competition last month.
Elder loneliness and depression is a significant issue facing both caretakers and assisted living facilities. Rendever hopes to improve this through offering the ability to relive and revisit their favorite locations and memories, and even take group tours of various famous landmarks such as Macchu Picchu.
Not only does this VR system present an avenue for patients to see the real world outside of a care facility or home, but it also tracks movement data, a potential source of diagnosis and therapy. Patients can be asked to go about through real life simulations, such as preparing a meal, or other daily actions, offering the possibility of assisting in early diagnosis of dementia. During the entire process, Rendever’s custom software collects data based on movement, reaction time, and executive function.
This isn’t the first VR system to offer a significant option to help manage elder loneliness. We’ve previously covered OneCaringTeam and their VR options. Given the immersion with today’s cutting-edge VR technology, we will likely continue to see innovative uses of this to help escape unpleasant environments. Trials are already underway for such interventions even within the hospital like those Cedars-Sinai is conducting.

This article originally appeared on iMedicalApps.com.

Tree Nut Allergies Often Overdiagnosed

Skin, blood testing not very useful for identifying ‘co-allergy,’ study suggests

by Salynn Boyles
Contributing Writer March 27, 2017

More than 50% of people with documented allergies to peanuts or a single tree nut passed an oral food challenge to other tree nuts, despite showing skin or blood test sensitivity to those other foods, researchers said.
Findings from the retrospective analysis involving more than 100 patients with tree nut allergies or sensitization suggest that skin and blood testing is not particularly accurate for identifying tree nut co-allergy, according to Christopher Couch, MD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues.
Nearly all patients with peanut allergy and tree nut co-sensitization passed the tree nut challenge, questioning the clinical relevance of ‘co-allergy’,” the researchers wrote online in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Although conducted at a single center, the study is one of the largest ever reported to address the accuracy of standard tests for “co-allergies.”
Couch told MedPage Today that controlled oral food challenge in an allergist’s office is the best test available for identifying additional tree nut allergies.
“What this study shows is that patients can have positive [skin or blood] tests, without being truly allergic,” he said. “This is where oral food challenge really gives a much clearer, objective result.”
The study included results from all tree nut oral food challenges conducted at the University of Michigan Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology clinics from 2007 through 2015. All patients had tree nut skin prick testing and/or corresponding tree nut sIgE testing before undergoing the food challenges. Delayed oral food challenge was defined as longer than 12 months from the time of an sIgE level lower than 2kUA/L.
Among the main study findings:
• The overall passage rate was 86% for 156 tree nut oral food challenges (OFCs) in 109 patients (54 almond, 28 cashew, 27 walnut, 18 hazelnut, 14 pecan, 13 pistachio, and two Brazil nut)
• Passage rates were 76% (n=67) in patients with a history of tree nut allergy who were challenged to another tree nut to which they were sensitized and 91% (n=65) in those with tree nut sensitization only (mean sIgE 1.53 kUA/L; range 0.35-9.14)
• Passage rates were 89% (n=110 of 124) for a tree nut sIgE level lower than 2 kUA/L and 69% (11 of 16) for a tree nut sIgE level of at least 2 kUA/L
• Among 44 challenges in patients with peanut allergy and tree nut co-sensitization, the tree nut OFC passage rate was 96%
• In 41 tree nut OFCs with a tree nut skin prick test wheal size of at least 3 mm, 61% passed, with a mean wheal size of 4.8 mm (range 3-11) in those passing versus 9 mm (range 3-20) in those failing
“The discovery of tree nut sensitization in individuals who have never ingested any tree nut or might be reactive to another tree nut but have never ingested the particular tree nut in question has become problematic in clinical practice,” the researchers wrote. “Sensitization in this context is difficult to interpret, is poorly specific and can lead to potentially unnecessary food avoidance.”
In an analysis of these patients, 91% of 42 patients with sensitivity to a tree nut undergoing 65 tree nut OFCs were successful, leading the researchers to conclude that controlled food challenge in this scenario “might have high utility.”
The retrospective design of the study was cited as a study limitation, as was the fact that the data were obtained from electronic medical record review. The potential for selection bias was also cited, since most challenges were performed in patients with s IgE levels lower than 2 kUA/L and/or skin prick test wheal smaller than 3 mm.
“We propose that positive tree nut skin prick results (wheal size ≥3 mm) might be a better predictor of oral food challenge outcome than sIgE levels in individuals with tree nut allergy when the two tests are available,” the researchers wrote.
“We found that almond might be introduced into the diet of patients with peanut allergy without the need to perform skin prick testing, sIgE, and/or oral food challenge because 100% passed the almond challenge in our sample. Although this study contributes valuable data on tree nut allergy and tree nut sensitivity, additional studies are needed to help guide clinical decision making in this area.”

Funding for this research was provided by the National Center for Advancing Transplational Science, and others.
• Reviewed by F. Perry Wilson, MD, MSCE Assistant Professor, Section of Nephrology, Yale School of Medicine and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner
• Primary Source
Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
Source Reference: Couch C, et al “Characteristics of tree nut challenges in tree nut allergic and tree nut sensitized individuals” Ann Allergy Asthma Immun 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.anai.2017.02.010.

Doctors Mixed on Housecall Apps – Easy as saying ‘Heal’ to page an on-call doc, but skeptics abound

by Ryan Basen
Staff Writer, MedPage Today March 12, 2017

On a Saturday afternoon in February, Renee Dua, MD, visited with a 40-something man in Los Angeles. The nephrologist diagnosed a sprained ankle, fitted the patient with a brace and left. When she checked on the man a bit later, he reported to be recovering fine, she said.
This is what today’s housecall looks like. The patient “paged” Dua for medical service via a smartphone app called Heal, and she climbed out of a car and knocked on his door later that day. On the heels of Heal — its reported success and recent expansion — many young doctors have taken to making similar housecalls, seeing opportunities to earn extra income, focus more on their patients, and observe Homo sapiens in their natural habitats, like amateur anthropologists.
But other physicians remain holdouts, questioning whether housecalls can really return to the bygone era mythologized by Normal Rockwell paintings.
“It’s still (often) going to require additional visits the next day, next few days,” said Chris Koutures, MD, a pediatric sports medicine specialist in southern California.
More providers are making house calls to Medicare Part B patients, reports the American Academy of Home Care Medicine, with rates surging from 2006-2013, especially among internal medicine and family medicine physicians, and podiatrists. Rates also soared among nurse practitioners and physician assistants. (Data on housecall breakdowns via app were not available; Heal providers have examined more than 16,000 patients in two years, according to a company press release).
One reason for this trend: “Home visits have also been shown to increase patient and caregiver satisfaction,” a group of family medicine specialists (led by Tomoko Sairenji, MD, of the University of Washington School of Medicine) wrote in a recent Journal of Graduate Medical Education article.
Who Wants Housecalls?
Patients are leveraging apps such as Heal, PAGER and Curbside Cares in major cities including Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia. Who are they? Many of the same people who have embraced Uber and similar on-call ride-sharing apps. Heal’s “core team” bio page features eight executives making faces ranging from contemplative (the product director looks to the sky with his left index finger resting on his stubbled chin) to childish (Dua sticks out her tongue).
Companies apply different models; Heal for example connects patients with on-call doctors daily, including weekends, and also offers evening appointments. It accepts insurance and charges roughly the cost of an office visit.
Heal boasts full-time physicians and others who moonlight for the company, who receive an hourly salary to cover time they spend traveling between patients’ homes in addition to the visits. Gabriel Niles, MD, a full-time family medicine doctor in L.A., works Tuesday-Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., for example, seeing up to a dozen patients daily. Shauntelle Bonman, DO, a part-time family medicine physician in southern California, usually works a pair of 12-hour shifts weekly.
“To see them in their natural habitat, in an environment that’s more comfortable and intimate, you see a different side of people when they let their guard down and you’re seeing their home too,” Niles said. “It says a lot about who they are and what health challenges they may be dealing with.”
“I worked a lot in outpatient where the emphasis was on volume over quality of care, and for me that’s a conflict,” said Bonman, who has practiced in a few different settings since finishing her residency in 2012. “My primary goal is always to take care of the patient and be comprehensive … It’s nice to know that I have more than three minutes to spend with patients.”
Making housecalls also allows physicians to discuss more preventive care with patients, said Sam Kim, MD, Heal’s pediatrics director, and keeps them out of overburdened ER’s and urgent care centers.
Drawbacks
But other physicians still do not make housecalls and question if they ever will. Susan Hingle, MD, an internal medicine professor at Southern Illinois University, typically starts a day with paperwork at 7 a.m., sees patients from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., then does more paperwork. “Just figuring out where you would fit it in is a big issue,” she said.
The top three barriers to making housecalls, according to residents surveyed by Sairenji and co-authors, were scheduling difficulties, faculty time, and resident time. “Obviously it’s wonderful for those families to have somebody come to your doorstep, but if you’re looking to efficiently provide medical care, it’s not efficient for the provider,” Koutures said. “There’s fleeting times I think about it, but in the greater scheme, how do you put that into your professional or personal life? That’s where it becomes more complicated.”
Koutures worries that the trend embodies a larger movement towards customer service within medicine. He is also concerned about the qualifications and skills of the doctors on-call. Many primary care physicians are treating sports injuries in children when making housecalls, for example. “It really boils down to training, since musculoskeletal training in the U.S. is variable,” he said. “That’s where I’m kind of dubious … unless it’s somebody who’s taken time to get training.”
Hingle also worries about the impact on treatment. “What’s missing in this is a continuity relationship, and that was the best thing we have found (affecting treatment),” she said. “It’ll be interesting to see over time how patients like or don’t like not knowing the doctor they’re going to be seeing.”
This trend seems poised to continue, at least in the short-term. “Given the ‘quadruple aim,'” Sairenji and co-authors wrote, as well as residents’ interest, “aging demographics, and growing financial incentives, the need for practitioners who can provide home visits will likely increase.”
There’s also patient motivation. Bonman herself is re-evaluating taking her three small children to the doctor’s office. Punching information into an app and waiting for a provider to show up at her home is a lot more appealing, she said. “It is cumbersome to do anything,” she said, “let alone go to to the doctor’s office.”
That’s one reason she foresees “practicing home-based care for likely the entirety of my career” (and Niles “for an extended period of time.”)
“But,” she added, “it’s hard to predict exactly what that will look like.”
It won’t look like a “have it your way” campaign, Dua said: “It’s not Burger King. You may think you need this test, but we are thinking as professionals, this is how we are going to manage your case.”
However it looks, one-on-one time will likely be featured. “Everybody is sick and tired of the brokenness of our healthcare system today,” Kim said. “The beauty of Heal is it’s taking healthcare back to what it was: doctor and patient.”

Primary Care Procedures App a ‘Diamond in the Rough’

by Douglas Maurer DO, MPH
March 08, 2017

Overall:
A true diamond in the rough; the Proceducate medical app is an outstanding addition for primary care providers looking for affordable yet comprehensive options for reviewing/teaching common procedures. The video is most similar to Procedures Consult in format with excellent videos and fairly detailed text to provide learners a comprehensive review.
Likes:
• Contains a step-by-step guide for many common primary care procedures
• Uses quality images, still animation, and videos for anatomy and guidance
• Available for both iOS and Android
• App is free!
Dislikes:
• Videos online only; would be ideal to have an offline/download option
• Currently only covers a relatively small number of procedures performed in family medicine
• Does not contain pre/post-tests or curriculum per se on best uses for the app
• Some may not want to consent to a research study in order to use the app

For a full review and video demonstration, visit iMedicalApps.com.

Four More States Report Soy Nut Butter E. coli Infections (CDC)

Company issues product recall
• by MedPage Today Staff
March 08, 2017
Four more people from four additional states became infected with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 bacteria after consuming a certain brand of soy nut butter and granola, according to the CDC.
Missouri, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin have all reported individuals becoming ill after consuming I.M. Healthy Brand SoyNut Butter — bringing the total affected to 16. Two additional people have been hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome. All five individuals with this type of kidney failure were children, a CDC investigation found.
In light of the most recent illnesses, which began on Feb. 21, 2017, the SoyNut Butter Co issued an FDA recall on all I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butters and all I.M. Healthy Granola products.

15 Tips for Preventing Infections in the Hospital

Hospitals are breeding grounds for MRSA, C. diff, and other bacteria. Use our expert advice to stay safe.
By Consumer Reports

Hospitals are breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria, including those that cause C. diff and MRSA infections.
Some 650,000 people developed those and other infections after being admitted to U.S. hospitals in 2011, and 75,000 died, based on the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That would make hospital-acquired infections the nation’s eighth leading cause of death, just behind diabetes and just ahead of flu and pneumonia.
Many hospitals have cut the risk of some of those infections—but too many have not. And sometimes bad things happen even in good hospitals.
“That’s why you need to be alert, whenever and wherever you enter a hospital,” says Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumer Reports’ Safe Patient Project.
Here are key steps you can take for preventing infections in the hospitals, so you can keep yourself and your family safe in the hospital.
1. Check Up on Your Hospital
See how it compares with others on central line, C. diff, and MRSA infections, as well as other measures of patient safety. To compare hospitals in your area at preventing infections, use our hospital ratings.
2. Have a Friend or Family Member With You
That person can act as your advocate, ask questions, and keep notes. A Consumer Reports survey of 1,200 recently hospitalized people found that those who had a companion were 16 percent more likely to say that they had been treated respectfully by medical personnel. The most important times to have a companion for preventing infections and other medical errors are on nights, weekends, and holidays, when staff is reduced, and when shifts change.
3. Keep a Record
Keep a pad and pen nearby so that you can note what doctors and nurses say, which drugs you get, and questions you have. If you spot something worrisome, such as a drug you don’t recognize, take a note or snap a picture on your phone. You can also use your phone to record thoughts or conversations with staff. Though some may object, “explain that you are recording so you remember later,” McGiffert says.
4. Insist on Clean Hands
Ask everyone who enters your room whether they’ve washed their hands with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is not enough to destroy certain bacteria, such as the dangerous C. diff. Don’t hesitate to say: “I’m sorry, but I didn’t see you wash your hands. Would you mind doing it again?”
5. Keep It Clean
Bring bleach wipes for bed rails, doorknobs, the phone, and the TV remote, all of which can harbor bacteria. And if your room looks dirty, ask that it be cleaned.
6. Cover Wounds
Some hospitals examine incisions daily for infection, but opening the bandage exposes the area to bacteria. Newer techniques—sealing the surgical site with skin glue (instead of staples, which can harbor bacteria) and waterproof dressings that stay on for one to three weeks without opening—are effective at preventing infection. (Watch a video on the right way to care for wounds at home.)
7. Inquire Whether IVs and Catheters Are Needed
Ask every day whether central lines, urinary catheters, or other tubes can be removed. The longer they’re left in place, the greater the infection risk.
8. Ask About Antibiotics
For many surgeries, you should get an antibiotic 60 minutes before the operation. But research suggests that the type of antibiotic used or the timing of when it’s administered is wrong in up to half of cases.
9. Postpone Surgery If You Have an Infection
That increases your risk of developing a new infection and worsening an existing one. So if you have any other type of infection—say, an abscessed tooth—then the surgery should be postponed, if possible, until it’s completely resolved.
10. Say No to Razors
Removing hair from the surgical site is often necessary, but doing that with a regular razor can cause nicks that provide an opening for bacteria. The nurse should use an electric trimmer instead.
11. Question the Need for Heartburn Drugs
Some patients enter the hospital taking heartburn drugs such as lansoprazole (Prevacid) or omeprazole (Prilosec) or are prescribed one after they’re admitted. But these drugs, called proton-pump inhibitors, increase the risk of intestinal infections and pneumonia, so consider stopping them before admission and, once there, ask whether you really need one.
12. Test for MRSA
Ask your surgeon to screen you for MRSA, a potentially deadly bacteria that’s resistant to antibiotics, either before you enter or on admission, so that you can address the problem and hospital staff can take extra steps to protect you and others.
13. Watch for Diarrhea
Get tested for C. diff if you have three loose stools within 24 hours. If you test positive, expect extra precautions for preventing infections from spreading to others.
14. Quit Smoking, Even Temporarily
You won’t be allowed to smoke in the hospital anyway, and stopping as long as possible beforehand cuts the risk of infection. Read our advice on how to stop smoking.
15. Wash Up the Night Before Surgery
Ask about taking precautions before entering the hospital, such as bathing with special soap or using antiseptic wipes.

The Pronovost Principles

Peter Pronovost, M.D., now senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, developed a checklist to prevent central-line infections more than 15 years ago. It’s still the gold standard.
If a family member needs a central line, make sure hospital staff follows this protocol when placing or handling one of the IVs:
• Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
• Wear protective clothing when inserting the line, including mask, cap, gown, and gloves; the patient should be covered with a sterile sheet.
• Disinfect the patient’s skin with the antiseptic chlorhexidine.
• Avoid placing the IV in the groin.
• Check every day whether the catheter can be removed.
In addition, the insertion site should be covered with sterile gauze or chlorhexidine dressings, and caregivers should wash their hands before touching the patient or the line and scrub the access port before each use.
Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the January 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Alternative medicine becomes a lucrative business for U.S. top hospitals

By Ilene MacDonald | FierceHealth
Mar 7, 2017 11:33am
Chinese herbal therapies, acupuncture, homeopathy and reiki are just a few of the offerings that some prestigious medical centers now provide, despite the fact that in many cases there is no evidence the therapies work.
The rise of alternative medicine has created friction within some of these hospitals as many physicians believe it undermines the credibility of the organizations, according to an in-depth investigation of 15 academic research centers by STAT.
The issue came to the forefront earlier this year when the Cleveland Clinic decided to rethink its alternative medicine offerings and how they align with evidence-based practices after the director of the organization’s wellness program went on an anti-vaccine rant in a blog post that sparked an immediate backlash.
The clinic said the wellness center would stop selling some of the products, like homeopathy kits, on its website and focus instead on items that improve diet and lifestyle.
But the STAT investigation noted that the Cleveland Clinic is just one of many that has a hand in the $37-billion-a-year business. Other organizations include Duke University, Johns Hopkins, Yale and the University of California, San Francisco. Some hospitals open spa-like wellness centers, while others, like Duke, refer to them as integrative medicine centers.
Several of the hospitals highlighted in the STAT report declined to talk to the publication about why they have embraced unproven therapies, but critics were quick to point out that patients are being “snookered” and physicians who promote these therapies forfeit claims that they belong to a science-based profession.
“We’ve become witch doctors,” Steven Novella, M.D., a professor of neurology at the Yale School of Medicine and a longtime critic of alternative medicine, told STAT.
Others, however, say that alternative therapies have helped patients and modern medicine doesn’t offer a cure for everyone. Linda Lee, M.D., who runs the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center, said the therapies offered are meant to complement, not supplement, conventional treatment.
But Novella worries that when these unconventional treatments are offered by prestigious institutions, patients will think they are legitimate. The problem only worsens when patients find the treatments being sold online by the institution. Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, for instance, sells homeopathic bee venom to relieve symptoms of arthritis.
Daniel Monti, M.D., who directs the integrative health center at the organization, admits the evidence behind some of these treatments is largely anecdotal but said the hospital only offers the treatment when there are few other options.

3 tech breakthroughs that will change medicine

by Gienna Shaw | FierceHealthIT
Mar 6, 2017 10:00am

From brain implants to a map of human cells, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is out with its annual list of 10 breakthrough technologies. And although it’s peppered with cool stuff like face-detecting tech that can authorize payments and 360-degree selfies, three healthcare breakthroughs made this year’s list.
Brain implants
Scientists are making remarkable progress at using brain implants to restore the freedom of movement that spinal cord injuries take away, according to the report.
“In recent years, lab animals and a few people have controlled computer cursors or robotic arms with their thoughts, thanks to a brain implant wired to machines,” the authors write. “Now researchers are taking a significant next step toward reversing paralysis once and for all. They are wirelessly connecting the brain-reading technology directly to electrical stimulators on the body … so that people’s thoughts can again move their limbs.”
Gene therapy 2.0
Researchers have been chasing the dream of gene therapy for decades. Until recently it had produced more disappointments than successes. But now, crucial puzzles have been solved and gene therapies are on the verge of curing devastating genetic disorders.
“Fixing rare diseases, impressive in its own right, could be just the start,” according to the article.
The Cell Atlas
The first comprehensive map of human cells should reveal, for the first time, what human bodies are made of, providing scientists with “a sophisticated new model of biology that could speed the search for drugs,” according to the article.
“We will see some things that we expect, things we know to exist, but I’m sure there will be completely novel things,” Mike Stubbington, head of the cell atlas team at the Sanger Institute in the U.K., tells the publication. “I think there will be surprises.”
And more …
Practical quantum computers, reinforcement learning and the “botnet of things” also made this year’s list. Connected devices in the home, an item of interest to healthcare organizations, are particularly vulnerable to hackers, the article notes. “And that makes it easier than ever to build huge botnets that take down much more than one site at a time.”

Not Feeling Well? Ask HealthTap’s ‘Dr. AI’

What to Do Next Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, ventures into healthcare
• by Satish Misra MD March 03, 2017 – This post originally appeared on iMedicalApps.com.

Amazon’s Alexa is a voice-activated virtual assistant that can do a lot of things, from controlling the lights and temperature in your house to ordering a box of diapers stat. Each of those Alexa skills is, essentially, a different app. And now HealthTap has announced plans to bring its new “Dr. AI” platform, an artificial intelligence powered “virtual physician,” to Alexa.
HealthTap launched Dr. AI earlier this year through their health apps on iOS and Android. It’s basically a symptom checker on steroids, letting users pose health questions or complaints. Dr. AI checks that against their health profile in HealthTap and can ask follow-up questions to gather more data. It then provides potential diagnoses and guidance on what to do next. For now, that guidance focuses on what level of care is needed next, i.e., chat with a HealthTap doctor, go to an appointment, or go to the emergency room.
That final step is based on HealthTap’s extensive database of health questions posed by patients and answers provided by physicians. The answers themselves are rated by other physicians who can agree or disagree with the response. Dr. AI uses deep learning algorithms to take that growing dataset, generated by real-life physicians, and figure out how to answer new questions posed by users. According to HealthTap:
Dr. AI is based on the collective clinical knowledge developed over the course of 6 years of applying doctor expertise to real-world patient questions, from a network of more than 105,000 licensed doctors across 141 specialties… “Applying Bayesian thinking and advanced techniques of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to the rich data we’ve collected from billions of transactions between tens of thousands of doctors and hundreds of millions of patients on HealthTap, we’ve built an expert system that can help triage people to the care they need when they need it most.” [HealthTap CMO Dr. Geoff Rutledge]
With the new Dr. AI skill, users will be able to ask those questions directly through their Alexa device. Simply being able to talk naturally and interact with Dr. AI in an almost conversational manner seems like it could make a big difference in the experience for many people compared to typing a history into a symptom checker or even chatting with a physician online. According to HealthTap CEO Ron Gutman, making the interaction feel natural and conversational was a core design consideration.
Of course, a concern here is accuracy of the assessments rendered by Dr. AI. There’s no data available to support it, and prior studies have cast doubt on the most popular symptom checkers out there. Those symptom checkers work in very different ways and none are based on the real-world questions (in the words patients use) in the way that Dr. AI is, which could be its strength.
On the other hand, the company also seems to assume that the responses provided by HealthTap physicians are correct, without any proof to back that up. For that reason, I’d hope HealthTap also integrated some validated triage tools into the design as well.
It’s certainly an interesting step forward in the march towards putting AI-based tools on the front lines of healthcare. For this to go from a novelty to a tool with real impact, though, we’ll really need HealthTap to step up and deliver data on the accuracy of the diagnoses offered and, more importantly, safety and appropriateness of triage advice given.

Sources: Fortune, HealthTap