Recently we caught up with Ash Damle, a co-founder of the personalized medical search engine Medgle, and picked his brain about this new site for patients and physicians.
What was the original motivation to start a website like MEDgle?
With the many time constraints placed on physicians, physicians are unable to discuss options or differential diagnoses to patients. Patients feel they lack the knowledge to ask appropriate questions and get relevant answers. Even though 80% of internet users search health related topics currently no tool is available that is easy to use, and provides a list of reasonable options that can empower consumers in their discussions with physicians. Thus MEDgle was conceived to enable an equal and fruitful discussion between physicians and patients with the search results being the starting point for such a discussion.
How involved are medical professionals in the development of MEDgle?
Physicians have been very involved from the start from conceiving the need for a tool like MEDgle and the road map that should be followed. Physicians currently enter all data despite their busy schedules. They are involved in determining probabilities for various disease conditions–where data does not exist, they use their experience in the practice of medicine as a guide to determining the frequency of occurrences. Without physician involvement, MEDgle would not exist.
What problems have you run into during the development stage?
As in most new ventures time has been a critical constraint. It took us time to determine the algorithms that would give reasonable results; in short, to determine reasonably the frequency of a given condition in the population by age, duration, gender and other factors. We have also been stymied at the lack of publicly available prevalence data in a usable format broken down by the parameters we were interested in.
What will it take for MEDgle to get out of Beta?
To get out of beta, we well, need TIME–time to fine tune the results and increase our data base.
How is MEDgle better than traditional search engines?
A traditional search engine does not result in a probabilistic list of options to empower the consumer in his/her discussions with physicians. With a traditional search engine, the patient can only enter keywords symptoms or diagnosis. In the case of symptoms, a list of web results are given but no clue as to which diagnoses are relevant and how much so. In the case of a diagnosis, the patient can only search for the diagnosis that has already been determined by the physician. No differential diagnoses are available. MEDgle provides this missing link. MEDgle not only empowers the consumer but also helps the physician think through the list of options.
How do you see MEDgle being used by lay folks and professionals a few years from now?
Primarily, MEDgle results will be used as the starting point of any discussion between physician and patient. Health is an important topic for everyone. Given the tools, people will spend the time necessary to educate themselves. We envisage MEDgle being used by both physicians and patients to provide better care. We plan to add other features in the future to enable both parties achieve this goal.
What additional features do you plan to add in the future?
Many. But all of them will keep MEDgles focus in mind, as a search for better health. We’ll keep you posted as we roll them out. Also, we welcome any input to better our service both from the physician and patient’s point of view. Please note that we recently launched the Spanish version of MEDgle.
Do you now or do you plan to use one of the new Digg-like methods to increase the quality of results, or will you try to keep it Google-like, simply algorithm driven? (Perhaps giving medical professionals a free account where they can give a thumbs up or down on a search result and so increase or decrease the value of that result.)What potential problems do you see with patients trying to “diagnose”themselves to avoid an office visit? Do you feel that you can strike an appropriate balance between simplicity and medical accuracy across a wide spectrum of users and medical topics?
MEDgle was never meant to be a self-diagnosis tool (see disclaimer). We hope that patients will read the disclaimers and realize the hazards of self-diagnoses. We strongly feel that the physician is an integral part of the diagnoses chain and MEDgle provides the tools to arrive at that diagnoses through patient physician discussion, and of course lab and imaging where needed.
As patients become more involved with their health care, they will demand web sites that him find accurate, reliable information. Will MEDgle fill that void? Let us know what you think in the comments.