GPs should use online death risk calculator to assess patients, says study

An online questionnaire that allows middle-aged people to assess their risk of dying in the next five years has been developed by researchers, who say GPs could use it to identify high-priority patients.

Dr Andrew Green: risk calculator could be helpful (Photo: JH Lancy)
Dr Andrew Green: risk calculator could be helpful (Photo: JH Lancy)

The researchers say the risk calculator will help people assess their health risks without the need for a physical check-up, and will help ‘guide public policy’ around patients with the most health needs.

The website asks questions about age, gender, history of smoking, diabetes and heart health, and marital or financial difficulties. People are also asked to rate how healthy they believe they are.

Study author Dr Andrea Ganna said: ‘We hope that our score might eventually enable doctors to quickly and easily identify their highest risk patients, although more research will be needed to determine whether it can be used in this way in a clinical setting.’

'Potentially useful'

Scientists from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden looked at statistics from 500,000 people from the UK and identified probable causes of death.

Self-reported walking pace is a better predictor of death than blood pressure, the study found. Self-rated overall health was the best predictor of death in men, and previous cancer diagnosis was the best predictor for women.

GPC clinical and prescribing subcommittee chairman Dr Andrew Green said that the tool is ‘potentially useful’ but would be unlikely to target people most at risk.

‘Care also needs to be taken to understand the difference between a risk of death over the next five years and life expectancy,’ he said.

‘In some senses though, this tells us what we expect: that if you’re disadvantaged by illness or poverty, you’re more likely to die.’

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