The Symptom Checker

Announcing Our New Self-Care App 

The Symptom Checker puts self-care in the palm of your hand.  This easy to use and customizable app provides over 100 adult and pediatric symptom self triage protocols and 55 illustrated first aid topics. The guidelines in our Symptom Checker are used by over 90% of North American clinical contact centres and have supported more than 150 million nurse telephone triage calls.

We know that Over 70% of Canadians search the internet for health information and according to a study from Catalyst,  68% of Canadians now use a smart phone compared with 55% in 2014.  In order to capitalize on this trend and to help people that want to be an informed owner of their health, we have launched  Canadian versions of the extremely popular web and mobile healthcare applications from Selfcare Decisions.  These tools developed for the internet and the Android and IOS mobile operating systems provide a one stop shop for information on health problems. It also helps users decide where to go to get care based on the issues they are facing. Many conditions do not require a trip to the hospital and the long waits and unnecessary procedures that this often entails.  In many cases people just want to find out what their problem might be on their own. If after using the app they are still not certain, the sponsor of the program can easily provide an automatic link to a healthcare call centre where they can speak to a registered nurse at any time, day or night.

Sykes Assistance Services has chosen to create a Canadian version of the Selfcare Decisions application for several reasons:

  • The Selfcare Decisions application is available for both the web and for the Apple (IOS) and Android operating systems making it available to almost anyone who has access to a computer or a smart phone
  • The smart phone app can be used when there is no internet connection available,
  • The Schmitt-Thompson triage protocols that are used in the app are the same as those that have been used by our nurses since 2003 allowing us to provide continuity in our assessments and advice.
  • A key feature of the app is the user's ability to share their results with others including the triage nurse at a health call centre. This makes the solution efficient and seamless in any jurisdiction that has implemented both services
    "Symptom checkers that used the Schmitt-Thompson nurse triage protocols were more likely to provide appropriate triage decisions1"
  • Based on the evidence the protocols used in the Symptom Checker are the most effective available. 1

To make these tools available in Canada we have created a customized version of the health content based on Canadian healthcare practices and regulations. In addition since we have used the clinical symptom assessment protocols ourselves for over twelve years we have further customized many of the protocols based on feedback from our team of Medical Advisors and from the use of this content to support over 12 million callers since 2003. 

The App includes:

  • A user experience based on your brand, colours and strategy (see screen shots of the app using our CareCoach® brand below) 
  • Customizable content to support way finding, navigation and localized health information and advice
  • A personal space to store key health contacts and information on problems, allergies and medications
  • A tool to support sharing of the data with care partners, healthcare providers or a triage nurse at a healthcare facility or telephone triage service

The service can come as part of our end-to-end telehealth service or you can license it as a stand alone mobile or web based application for use in your own program. 


1. In a recent review of mobile symptom checkers in the British Medical Journal the authors found: "Symptom checkers that used the Schmitt-Thompson nurse triage protocols were more likely to provide appropriate triage decisions than those that did not: 72% (95% confidence interval 60% to 84%) v 55% (50% to 59%)" : BMJ 2015;351:h3480

CareCoach® Mobile

  • A picture of the Care Coach symptom checker screen showing how you can do a self assessment for children and adults
    The Symptom Checker

    This is the Symptom Checker launch screen.  From here you can find information on health symptoms, illnesses  and injuries.  You also have direct access to 55 first aid topics.  You can search  the self assessment tool for children and adults and can do so using an alphabetically indexed database  or a simulated body map.  

  • This is the image of the body area screen from the symptom checker mobile app. It shows a picture of a small boy with the words select a body area written beside his head.
    Search Symptoms by Body Area

    A unique feature of the Symptom Checker is to use a simple point and press search scheme using a representation of the human body.  The user can choose male or female both for adults and children.  The form chosen automatically loads the assessment protocols associated with that selection. This approach helps people with lower health literacy or those who simply prefer a visual approach to learning. 

  • This is an image of a screen capture of the definition of the sore throat symptom. It is designed to help people choose the correct symptom. At the top it shows what you feel with a sore throat and then offers alternatives. Further down it shows the causes of the symptom and images when available.
    Symptom Definition

    The first step in the assessment is to make certain that you are looking at the right problem.  To help the user do this the authors have created definitions of the symptoms. These definitions are the same as those used by our Registered Nurses for telephone triage calls.  This will really help the user and the nurse communicate in cases where the person wants to use the telehealth service in addition to the symptom checker app. 

  • This is the first of the symptom checker triage screens for Sore Throat. At the top of the screen the app has questions to rule out the need for an ambulance. At the bottom are the questions that could lead to a visit to a doctor's office.
    The Triage Process

    This triage screen shows the basic flow of the symptom assessment process beginning with the most serious symptoms.  Based on the acuity of the symptom the user is prompted through a series of questions to rule out potentially serious issues that may indicate that the person should potentially call 911 or go to the hospital.  As the user works through the questions they receive less emergent recommendations.  

  • This is a screenshot of the sore throat symptom protocol. the header says when to call. Then there are a series of options starting with to call your doctor and finally to take care of yourself.
    The Assessment Continues

    After the user rules out the more serious symptoms they are provided with options to call their doctor, to see them in their office or to perform self care at home. Each of these options is supported by an easy to understand description of the symptom that is associated with each recommendation. At anytime the caller is reminded that if they are still not sure what to do  they can press the icon to call the telehealth service and speak with a registered nurse. 

  • A typical care advice screen from the Schmitt Thompson protocols. This protocol is for sore throat and explains what to do if you have a sore throat
    Care Advice

    At the end of every triage assessment the user can access care advice that is targeted to their condition.  This is the same care advice that Sykes Assistance Services nurses use to help our callers.  When used in combination with our 24/7 telehealth service the user will receive the same support regardless of how they contact the program. The nurse can also refer to the information on the mobile app as part of the call so that the user will have easy access to the information the nurse has shared on the phone. 

  • The sharing module of the app has a place for the email address at the top followed by a document that shows the outcome of your assessment. What your problem was, what the app recommended and what advice it provided for self care.
    Sharing Your Results

    This is where you can share the results of your assessment with your doctor, a family member or with a nurse at a telehealth service. It will display:

    • The reason why you used the app
    • The recommendation from the clinical protocols based on the information that was provided
    • The care advice that was provided by the authors of the app

    Then you can simply provide the email address of the person with which you would like to share your results and press send. 

  • This screen shows special programs that sponsors can offer such as a list of their wellness programs, to quit smoking, to get their vaccinations, or to visit a public health office
    Your Own Customized Page

    This screen provides a great opportunity to showcase your programs. This is where you can invite people to review your in house developed health information, to sign up for programs, to join wellness services, to quit smoking, to get their vaccines or other routine preventative tests or activities. 

  • A mobile app that links you to health services simply by pressing on a name or picture
    Seek Help

    This is the screen that helps you to instantly reach services. From here you can directly link to any number of health services simply by pressing on the icon.  Some examples are:

    • Call your nurse advice line
    • Reach a find a physician referral service
    • Call your doctor, pharmacist, or care partner
    • Locate nearby healthcare services by accessing an interactive map
    • A one push connection to 911 or other emergency services

    This screen can be customized to help your users to seek help from any number of different programs that you might want to offer through the app. 

  • The mobile screen for medications and allergies. A place to keep track of what prescriptions you take and what allergies you have.
    Medications and Allergies

    This is where individual users can document information on the medications that they take, their allergies or other health problems that they might have.  They can then review these with their healthcare provider  or with other allied health professionals as needed. While this is not a full fledged personal health record it does provide a convenient location to store and then retrieve basic personal health information. 

  • The Parent Advice screen. It shows how you can search for information on children's development and behaviour problems
    Parent Advice

    The Parent Advice screen links you to a data base of topics written to help people with their families. There are 145 topics that cover behavioural issues and normal childhood development. The use of this tool is optional and can be either replaced by or supplemented with other health information content.