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Crowd Diagnosis of STDs Frequently Sought Online

FRIDAY, Nov. 8, 2019 — Crowd diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is common online, according to a research letter published in the Nov. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Alicia L. Nobles, Ph.D., from the University of California in San Diego, and colleagues randomly selected 500 posts from all posts since the inception of the STD subreddit (r/STD; November 2010 through February 2019) in which social media users share STD-related “stories, concerns, and questions.” The researchers assessed whether each post requested a crowd diagnosis, and if so, that request was made to obtain a second opinion after seeing a health care professional.

The researchers found that the number of posts increased over time, from eight in November 2010 to 908 in February 2019. More than half of the posts (58 percent) requested a crowd diagnosis, and of these posts, 31 percent included an image of the physical signs. Twenty percent of those requesting a crowd diagnosis did so to obtain a second opinion after receiving a previous diagnosis by a health care professional. The vast majority of posts requesting a crowd diagnosis (87 percent) received a reply (mean responses, 1.7), with a median time of 3.04 hours for the first response (range, 59 seconds to 8.8 weeks). Nearly eight in 10 requests (79 percent) were answered within one day.

“Although crowd diagnoses have the benefits of relative anonymity, rapid response, and multiple opinions, the underlying accuracy of crowd diagnoses is unknown given that responders may be operating with limited information about the patient, and responders may lack medical training,” the authors write.

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Posted: November 2019


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