Big Winner Symcat Symptom Checker at HDI

RWJF Senior VP John Lumpkin presents Craig Monsen with a $100,000 check

The Health Data Initiative Forum, part of D.C. Health Data and Innovation Week, is going on now. Those who help put on the show, the members of the Health Data Consortium, promote the use of open data to create services and applications that help improve health and health care delivery.

One way members promote application development is through challenges. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a public health philanthropy organization, awarded one literally huge $100,000 check to startup Symcat for its new online and mobile web application.

Symcat was also a crowd favorite when it demoed during the morning session on Tuesday. The application pulls in data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as data provided by RWJF. Patients use Symcat to look up information about their symptoms, and the RWJF data allow them to find an appropriate physician.

“If there’s a moral here, I think it would be that the data are out there, you just need to be a little crafty about stitching them all together,” Johns Hopkins University medical student and Symcat co-creator Craig Monsen said.

Monsen walked through the demo by researching back pain. When patients first start experiencing an unusual symptom, they often run a Google search. Monsen said the problem with Google is it will reveal that your back pain is due to tuberculosis, malaria or metastatic breast cancer.

Symcat combines users’ answers from a series of questions and data-driven algorithms to help patients figure out what they have. The more information a user enters, the more specific the results get. Symcat turns up a list of possible conditions that might cause back pain, sorted by how likely they are.

The system also decides which questions to ask based on a patient’s medical history. These are like the questions a doctor would ask, given what he knows about his patient’s past.

During the process of answering these questions, patients might get a red flag telling them to seek emergency treatment. Symcat generates a list of places patients can go, and it will tell them how much it’s likely to cost them to get treated.

Say there’s no emergency, but the patient decides it’s a good idea to go in and see a doctor. They can look at facility quality based on data from the RWJF Aligning Forces initiative.

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