“It took many, many hours both in development, as well as in the live clinical setting [to test] out the platform and make the needed changes to get it to what it is today,”
Tarek Fahl, M.D.
Anyone with an internet connection has at one point or another run a Google search on their symptoms to see what ails them instead of consulting with a medical professional first. With that type of quick and convenient access to medical information through a cellphone, tablet, or PC, it’s not hard to see the appeal of Dr. Google. Not all of the results that an online search generates is accurate, but a vast majority of the population continues to seek medical diagnoses via the internet, creating cyberchondriacs with every keystroke.
Well aware of the dangers misdiagnosing a condition can carry, orthopedic surgeon Tarek Fahl, M.D., and a group of Houston board-certified specialist physicians decided to come together and bring their years of academic and private practice experience to create a website that addressed health care providers’ growing concerns over patients’ ability to research any and all medical conditions with questionable accuracy. The group’s interest and passion to provide patients with accurate information online ultimately culminated in the formation of DocResponse in 2012.
The website uses an algorithm specially designed by Fahl, his team, and technology experts to provide users with a similar experience as they would have in a doctor’s office by asking a series of pointed questions to help narrow down the list of potential medical problems. The algorithm then produces a list of likely diagnoses with percentage likelihood and follow-up recommendations for further evaluation, as needed.
“We felt that it was incumbent upon us as physicians to provide accurate and useful information to allow patients to make better informed health care decisions,” Fahl said. “Furthermore, due to our best in class accuracy, DocResponse is also capable of assisting healthcare providers as a clinical decision support tool.”
Since its inception, DocResponse has been lauded as the most accurate symptom checker and diagnostic tool currently available, ranking no. 1 in a peer-reviewed study, “Evaluation of symptom checkers for self diagnosis and triage: audit study,” conducted by Harvard Medical School researchers. The study, which was published in the July 2015 issue of the British Medical Journal, showed that DocResponse outperformed its competitors — including, Harvard Medical School’s Family Health Guide, iTriage, Mayo Clinic and WebMD — in correctly diagnosing patient evaluations.
Due to this exceptional accuracy, as well as the fact that the software platform addresses over 300 different diagnoses, DocResponse has added providers as a clinical decision support tool and payers to decrease unnecessary utilization to its business model from the initial idea of solely focusing on the patient population.
But before DocResponse was able to achieve the level of success that garnered national attention, it faced similar challenges many other companies experience in the early stages of development.
“Building the team and finding talent was a critical challenge that we faced in building the DocResponse platform,” Fahl said. “[But] it was overcome with hard work and determination as we gathered the physician teams needed to ensure our product was the very best of its kind on the market.”
Fahl said another major challenge was ensuring DocResponse could generate correct health care information based on user input and responses, but his teams’ unwavering commitment to delivering the most accurate, user-friendly, and reliable platform led them to go through various iterations.
As DocResponse continues to grow and establish itself as people’s first step in diagnosing symptoms, its participation in the 2016 TMCx Innovation Program offers its team access to more resources that can launch the company forward even further.
“TMCx is the perfect fit of startup acceleration and development in the health care space at the Texas Medical Center, the largest health care center of its kind in the world,” Fahl said. “The strong curriculum, engagement with key stakeholders in the Houston health care environment and hard-working and driven staff were all key factors in our decision to participate in the TMCx program.”
Fahl added that he hopes to leverage the funding, connections and guidance available through the TMCx Innovation Program to help DocResponse scale in Houston and, ultimately, expand nationally.