Scientific article
Open access

Differential Diagnosis Assessment in Ambulatory Care With an Automated Medical History – Taking Device: Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

Published inJMIR medical informatics, vol. 7, no. 4, e14044
Publication date2019-11-04
First online date2019-11-04

Background: Automated medical history-taking devices (AMHTDs) are emerging tools with the potential to increase the quality of medical consultations by providing physicians with an exhaustive, high-quality, standardized anamnesis and differential diagnosis.

Objective: This study aimed to assess the effectiveness of an AMHTD to obtain an accurate differential diagnosis in an outpatient service.

Methods: We conducted a pilot randomized controlled trial involving 59 patients presenting to an emergency outpatient unit and suffering from various conditions affecting the limbs, the back, and the chest wall. Resident physicians were randomized into 2 groups, one assisted by the AMHTD and one without access to the device. For each patient, physicians were asked to establish an exhaustive differential diagnosis based on the anamnesis and clinical examination. In the intervention group, residents read the AMHTD report before performing the anamnesis. In both the groups, a senior physician had to establish a differential diagnosis, considered as the gold standard, independent of the resident's opinion and AMHTD report.

Results: A total of 29 patients were included in the intervention group and 30 in the control group. Differential diagnosis accuracy was higher in the intervention group (mean 75%, SD 26%) than in the control group (mean 59%, SD 31%; P=.01). Subgroup analysis showed a between-group difference of 3% (83% [17/21]-80% [14/17]) for low complexity cases (1-2 differential diagnoses possible) in favor of the AMHTD (P=.76), 31% (87% [13/15]-56% [18/33]) for intermediate complexity (3 differential diagnoses; P=.02), and 24% (63% [34/54]-39% [14/35]) for high complexity (4-5 differential diagnoses; P=.08). Physicians in the intervention group (mean 4.3, SD 2) had more years of clinical practice compared with the control group (mean 5.5, SD 2; P=.03). Differential diagnosis accuracy was negatively correlated to case complexity (r=0.41; P=.001) and the residents' years of practice (r=0.04; P=.72). The AMHTD was able to determine 73% (SD 30%) of correct differential diagnoses. Patient satisfaction was good (4.3/5), and 26 of 29 patients (90%) considered that they were able to accurately describe their symptomatology. In 8 of 29 cases (28%), residents considered that the AMHTD helped to establish the differential diagnosis.

Conclusions: The AMHTD allowed physicians to make more accurate differential diagnoses, particularly in complex cases. This could be explained not only by the ability of the AMHTD to make the right diagnoses, but also by the exhaustive anamnesis provided.

  • Clinical applications software
  • Computer-assisted
  • Decision making
  • Differential diagnosis
  • General practitioners
  • Hospital outpatient clinics
  • Patient engagement
Citation (ISO format)
SCHWITZGUEBEL, Adrien Jean-Pierre et al. Differential Diagnosis Assessment in Ambulatory Care With an Automated Medical History – Taking Device: Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. In: JMIR medical informatics, 2019, vol. 7, n° 4, p. e14044. doi: 10.2196/14044
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ISSN of the journal2291-9694

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