If you’re one of the many that has Googled information on disease and/or symptoms in search of explanation for what may be ailing you, you probably found out that you are dying of every horrific illness ever. Probably tomorrow.
Necrotizing fasciitis? Got it.
Cornelia de Lange syndrome? Got it.
Rabies? Got it.
Werner syndrome? Got it.
Brocha’s aphasia? Got it.
The clap? Got it.
Anyways, you already know this. Googling medical information is the most counter-productive activity one can do in their free time and the careful art of diagnosis should best be left to medical professionals. Now, however, a group of researchers in California have created a website, eprognosis.org, that will help doctors predict the a patient’s life expectancy.
Before you start ticking your personal doomsday clock closer to midnight, I want to point out that the website is intended to be used with older patients. Lindsey Yourman, MD, explains that the website is intended to assist elders make more informed decisions about their treatment. As an example, she says, “Some older patients may not be offered cancer screening due to their age, but a prognostic index may suggest they are healthy and likely to benefit from cancer screening because of long life expectancy.”
According to Science Blog, the website was created after “the first systematic review of prognostic indices used to calculate a patient’s life expectancy.” In addition to the typical data you might expect to be included in such a prognosis, like age and medical history, the ability to carry out tasks associated with daily living “was found to be statistically significant in predicting life expectancy” of all of the indices the researchers reviewed. The report goes on to explain the three criteria that the researchers used to compute the prediction for life expectancy:
The first criterion is accuracy, which is the degree to which predicted outcomes match observed outcomes, said Smith, who is also a Greenwall Faculty Scholar in Bioethics and an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Geriatrics at UCSF.
The second criterion is what the researchers term transportability – the extent to which an index was tested independently in patients with essentially different characteristics from the patient population in which it was first tested. “The more transportable the index, the more generalizable it is to other types of patients,” said Smith.
The third criterion, said Smith, is applicability: “Are the patients in which this index was studied similar to my own patient in key characteristics, such as age, functional impairments and co-morbidities?”
The ultimate goal, Yourman says, is for doctors to do their best “to make sure that we help older patients make informed decisions about whether they will benefit from a treatment or not.”
As if to preclude any of your morbid tendencies to visit the website in order to plan your death party, you probably won’t find much in the way of tangible information: the eprognosis.org is designed for doctors and thus uses a medical vernacular that is probably over the head of the layperson. Just as well – if the website was in a medical language average people could understand, you, me and everyone else we know would be awake countless nights trying to decipher when we can expect to die. Since you probably won’t get that information out of this website, take in a deep breath and enjoy your stay here amongst the living.