What is the Isabel symptom checker?

Making the correct diagnosis in a timely manner is crucial. It not only avoids lots of unnecessary (and expensive) tests, but gets the appropriate treatment started more quickly.

But making a diagnosis can be difficult. And one of the leading causes of medical malpractice suits is “failure to diagnose”; that’s why so many cases of indigestion are worked up as potential heart attacks, or headaches for aneurysms or tumors.

Many patients (and physicians) turn to apps or online tools to help make a diagnosis. Unfortunately, Harvard just published a study that shows these tools are only right about half the time. (Physicians are correct 85-90% of the time.)

Furthermore, most of these tools are “risk averse.” That is they encourage you to seek medical care even if “self care is reasonable.” Again, that gets expensive and undermines one of the reasons you are looking up your symptoms—to avoid a costly doctor or urgent care visit.

I’ve often laughed at WebMD’s Symptom Checker because no matter your symptoms or how you answer the questions, a life-threatening diagnosis is always included. Hypochondriacs beware!

isabel symptom checkerHowever, one symptom checker did better than the others: the Isabel Symptom Checker.

Many hospitals and physicians have been using the Isabel Diagnosis Checklist System, described as a computer-based “diagnosis decision support” system, since 2001.

A few years ago, the founder, Jason Maude, created the app to make it available to patients. His intent was to help patients work with their health care providers to more quickly and accurately reach a diagnosis.

“The whole point is not to set the patient against the doctor or replace the doctor, but to make the patient much better informed and to ask the doctor much better questions, and then together they should do a much better job,” he says.

(The Isabel system was named after his daughter, who was a victim of misdiagnosis as a child.)

HealthWorks Collective, highlighting low-cost, high-value care, interviewed Jason Maude about his app and how it works in this YouTube video:


You can download the iOS version of the app here and the Android version here.


Frugal Nurse



What is the Isabel symptom checker? — 2 Comments

  1. Poorly written article. You do not need any “App” to use this symptom checker. It is available on any ordinary computer with a web browser.

    • Hi Mike, sorry you didn’t like the post. Yes, the Symptom Checker is available without the app, and I apologize if this was not clear. I link directly to that page in the article (click on the image). The app, however, makes it easier to take that information to your doctor. The larger Isabel platform is for health care professionals and only available through subscription. Thanks for the comment, FN