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June 8, 1994

Personal Physician

JAMA. 1994;271(22):1808. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510460102050

The goal of Personal Physician is to help adults better understand their medical concerns. It aims to simulate a health care professional who takes a patient history and provides recommendations. The software serves as a source of medical information "on call 24 hours a day... in the privacy of your own home."

In this simple, menu-driven program, the user first chooses from among 11 common complaints, 12 types of discomfort and pain, and five categories of health maintenance. After selecting the concern of interest, a series of yes/no questions guides the user through a decision tree and usually ends with a diagnosis, treatment recommendation, or course of action.

Personal Physician is easily accessible for reference. It can therefore provide reassurance and advice when a health professional may not be readily available. For potentially embarrassing medical complaints, such as male sexual dysfunction, the privacy offered by the program may be especially