SIDM Tech Update: HIT for Diagnosis

Maureen Cahill MCahill at NCSBN.ORG
Thu Feb 16 21:34:16 UTC 2017

Ed, I wondered about IBM’s Watson [] but maybe that is upstream from the tools.

Maureen Cahill [Senior Policy Advisor] 312.525.3646 (D) mcahill at<mailto:mcahill at>
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From: Edward Winslow [mailto:edbjwinslow at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2017 2:26 PM
Subject: [IMPROVEDX] SIDM Tech Update: HIT for Diagnosis

Health Information Technology (HIT) Tools for Diagnosis:

In November, we posted a call for IT or ideas you have for improving diagnosis. These tools are often referred to as either:

•      Medical Diagnostic Decision Support Systems (MDDSSs)

•      Diagnostic Clinical Decision Support Tools (DCDSTs)

Laura Zwaan in her article in our journal (Diagnosis; 2014, 1, 139-141<>) suggested that, properly devised and used, health IT should help improve the diagnostic process and that information about such tools should be widely disseminated.

Here are the 4 tools submitted in response; all are commercially available, and listed by date of introduction. Each of the submissions were from representatives of the organization that created the tools.

DXplain ( - Submitted by Edward P Hoffer, MD (ehoffer at<mailto:ehoffer at>):

DXplain, a MDDSS developed and supported by the Lab of Computer Science at the Massachusetts General Hospital, was first released in 1987, with 500 diseases in the database (db). Over the ensuing decades it has evolved and expanded to its current database of over 2500 diseases and some 6000 “findings,” which include symptoms, physical findings, demographics, laboratory test results and imaging findings. Its most common use allows the student or clinician to enter information about a patient and receive a rank-ordered list of diseases that can explain the findings entered.
The system was designed to be transparent, and will explain why a disease is on the list. It can guide the user to enter additional findings that will refine the disease list. Uniquely, it allows the entry of negatives – ie, absence of findings, which often help exclude diseases that would otherwise be suggested. The user can interrogate the db to get disease descriptions and diseases associated with any finding. Each disease has a hand-selected set of good references and also facilitates PubMed and Google searches. Many of the findings have associated descriptive text to describe their meaning.
DXplain is available world-wide over the Internet by annual subscription and is used by hospital, group practices and medical schools. Full details are available at<>
Isabel ( ) – Submitted by Jason Maude (Jason.maude at<mailto:Jason.maude at> ):

The Isabel DDx Generator is powered by statistical natural language processing software applied to a database of disease presentations. The system covers 10,000 conditions, all ages and all specialty areas of medicine. Besides clinical features, Isabel utilizes additional algorithms to only present those results relevant to the patient’s age, gender and geographic region.
The Isabel Symptom Checker uses the medically validated Isabel system. This enables patients to enter multiple symptoms in everyday language. Suggested possible diagnoses are linked to further knowledge. A ‘Where now?’ (triage) feature is also provided to help patients decide where to seek care within a health system.

We subsequently learned that any healthcare professional can take a 10-day free trial of the DDx Generator. There is also a “free patient version” – “Symptom Checker<>” available
VisualDx (– Submitted by Art Papier, MD (apapier at<mailto:apapier at>)
In 2016, VisualDx transformed from a dermatology app to diagnostic support for general medicine.
VisualDx is a web-based diagnostic decision support system improving diagnostic accuracy at the point of care. Through its medical image library and its search technology, health care professionals can build a custom differential. VisualDx introduced the “Sympticon,” a graphical method to communicate the pattern of symptoms. This process encourages a logical method of clinical reasoning and a visual approach to review, compare, and understand variations of disease.
Available on the desktop, as a native IOS or Android mobile app, and through the electronic health record, VisualDx fits into the clinicians’ workflow. VisualDx uses FHIR inside of Cerner Millennium EHR, and can integrate inside of Epic and other EHR’s.
To understand the approach, please view sample differentials at the link above
30-day free trials are available to students, residents, and any healthcare professional.
Xebra ( Submitted by Vipindas Chengat, MD (syncopesystem at<mailto:syncopesystem at>)
Physician Cognition’s decision-support and clinical education tools are driven by its core technology, Xebra™, an engine designed to mimic the cognitive strategies of a clinician. Xebra combines a variety of statistical and data analysis strategies to replicate the problem-solving approach taught by many medical schools. Xebra can process any number and combination of symptoms, signs, labs, medications, and past medical history and present a differential list in the order of probability, but its goal is not to offer a definitive diagnosis Rather it is to support the clinician’s decision-making process with a checklist approach. Part of Xebra’s core capability is its workup guide, which can help the clinician refine the diagnosis through an evidence-based step-wise process.
Physician Cognition’s products are targeted toward clinician students, residents, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to facilitate further learning and critical thinking development. While all products provide pre-searched and direct access to relevant educational resources, XebraPro and XebraED also incorporate both public and private clinician social media platforms to facilitate the discussion of unique and challenging cases, as well as workup guides.
The company also has ongoing R&D projects with various academic institutions to investigate integration of Xebra decision-support tools with EHRs.
 On a Google and Pub Med search we were able to identify several other systems with potential for being used as a DCDST:

1.     The Open Clinical Website<> has links to some diagnostic tools

2.     LeXMED<> (Learning EXpert Systems for MEdical Diagnosis)

a.     Primarily for Diagnosis of abdominal pain.

3.     AideDiag,<> in French

4.     CACDDST<> (Computer-Aided Clinical Diagnostic Decision Support Tool)

5.     Up to Date: Available on most University Library Websites

This is an evolving field. Some DDSS’s that were available in 2011[1] no longer have active websites.

To date, it is not yet clear if any of these DCDSTs can be imbedded into existing EMRs/EHRs for seamless use by clinicians desiring an integrated DCDS.

We welcome any comments on this topic, which will go through the usual SIDM ListServe review process.


[1] Bond, WF, et al: Differential Diagnosis Generators: an Evaluation of Currently Available Computer Programs: J Gen Intern Med, 2011, 000027, 213-9

Edward B, J. Winslow, MD, MBA
Home 847 256-2475; Mobile 847 508-1442
edbjwinslow at<mailto:edbjwinslow at><>

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"... it can be argued that underinvestment in assessing the past is likely to
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