Healthcare // Patient Tools
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4/18/2014
11:05 AM
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Can Crowdsourcing Beat Dr. House?

Startup CrowdMed uses a mix of prediction market software, crowdsourcing, and gamification to help patients gain insight from hundreds of medical detectives.

Crowdfunding The Next Healthcare Hit
Crowdfunding The Next Healthcare Hit
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Watching his sister visit doctor after doctor, in fruitless pursuit of a diagnosis and treatment, frustrated and inspired entrepreneur Jared Heyman.

After three years, countless physician appointments, and many unnecessary medications, Heyman's younger sister finally received the correct diagnosis: a rare disease with a straightforward treatment plan.

She is hardly alone.

It takes an average of more than two years for people with fibromyalgia to get the right diagnosis. Lyme disease is frequently misdiagnosed as everything from Crohn's disease, Lupus, and early Alzheimer's to Raynaud's disease and multiple sclerosis. In fact, diagnoses that are wrong, delayed, or overlooked are thought to affect 10% to 20% of all cases, according to a 2012 report by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

[Appointment with Dr. Video? Read Telehealth Gains Momentum In Obamacare Era.]

Rather than visiting one physician at a time, Heyman envisioned a system that uses the power of the crowd to recommend suggestions to patients who, in turn, can share that information with their primary healthcare providers. Already well versed in crowdsourcing and a developer of market prediction software, Heyman moved to Silicon Valley and founded CrowdMed.com.

The website combines the wisdom of the crowd with gamification, prediction software, and analytics to deliver the most appropriate advice to patients, Heyman tells us. Like an online stock market, CrowdMed's prediction market analytics software -- adapted for medical diagnostics -- allows people to choose future outcomes and win a reward if they're correct. The software aggregates respondents' knowledge to generate suggestions.

(Source: CrowdMed)

(Source: CrowdMed)

Patients pose their questions, along with symptoms, test results, lifestyle information, and images. The site's "medical detectives" respond. Although "several thousand" people have signed up as advisers, CrowdMed currently has about 200 active medical detectives. Since its beta went live in April 2013, CrowdMed has resolved approximately 200 cases, says Heyman, and now that the company is actively promoting the service, CrowdMed can handle up to 10 or 20 times this volume with its existing infrastructure and technology.

Detectives include a diverse array of medical professionals such as doctors, nutritionists, acupuncturists, and homeopaths, as well as people without formal health training who may have personal experience with a disease, he said.

"I think the expert-driven model is broken in healthcare. I saw it in my sister's case. They were all very biased and saw things through their own very narrow lens," says Heyman. "At the end of her struggle she ended up knowing more about her disease than most doctors because she ended up living it. I didn't want to bar patients who had deep knowledge about an illness."

Patients have two options, according to CrowdMed: They can submit a question for free, although they must provide a $50 deposit, which CrowdMed returns once the patient notifies CrowdMed which detective provided the

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Alison Diana has written about technology and business for more than 20 years. She was editor, contributors, at Internet Evolution; editor-in-chief of 21st Century IT; and managing editor, sections, at CRN. She has also written for eWeek, Baseline Magazine, Redmond Channel ... View Full Bio

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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
4/21/2014 | 4:01:30 AM
Re: Wisdom of the Crowd
Ariella, 

"She just brushed it off, saying her patients had never complained."

Maybe they all died before they could reach her. Seriously, she could kill someone if she thinks the side-effects won't affect anyone, ever. 

Once something similar happened to me. Since then, I always do my own little research on the Internet before even going to the pharmacy. 

Dr.House? I'd love to have a Dr.House around. 

-Susan

 
Juan MarioI563
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Juan MarioI563,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/20/2014 | 4:50:56 PM
Re: Wisdom of the Crowd
Really interesting Alison, thanks!

I think that you would be really interested in some of the most cutting-edge research that I have come across explaining crowds, open innovation, and citizen science. 

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=1919614

And you may also enjoy this blog about the same too: 

https://thecrowdsociety.jux.com/


 Powerful stuff, no?

 
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
4/19/2014 | 9:04:12 PM
Re: Wisdom of the Crowd
@Alison yes, sometimes doctors have rather limited views. For example, a doctor prescribed a medication for me once that made me feel very sick. I called her to ask about it because I saw the insert warned about just that side-effect. She just brushed it off, saying her patients had never complained. Right, so even if she has had several hundred patients taking that medication, that hardly represents the entire population.  But Dr. House would likely not ever trust the crowd over his own intellect. 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
4/19/2014 | 11:38:12 AM
Re: Wisdom of the Crowd
Alison, 

Very interesting. 

 "At the end of her struggle she ended up knowing more about her disease than most doctors because she ended up living it."

Exactly. This is precisely what many doctors fail to understand. 

It's infuriating when they think they can know more about how you feel, or what is normal or not in you than yourself. They love generalizing. Having the possibility of consulting the "crowd" sounds like a great idea that could help lots of people with not so easy diagnoses. At least, it's better than having the opinion of only one person who might be wrong. 

-Susan 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
4/18/2014 | 4:50:27 PM
Wisdom of the Crowd
Having been in a similar position at one point, passed from doctor to doctor and receiving no real assistance (although most were very nice), I understand the allure of asking "the crowd" for suggestions. These could include the type of condition, which type of doctor to see, and what to do next, all good information when you're running into medical dead-ends. I think it was smart to allow the general public to participate as detectives if they know enough about a certain condition. It would be interesting to see the software in action, to see how the crowd performed in test cases where the diagnosis was known to testers but not the system or its detectives. 
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
4/18/2014 | 12:30:01 PM
Weigh in, doctors
I am curious to hear what doctors think of this idea. The dark side would be if a patient invested a lot of time in a crazy theory. Weigh in please, health pros. 
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