Healthcare // Patient Tools
News
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
4/24/2014 | 12:46:11 AM
Re: Wisdom of the Crowd
What an experience, Ariella. :( They all sound very inexperienced, careless, disconsiderate. The worst part is that they didn't listen to you, who was the only one who could really tell when the time was right.

Did you, or your husband make any kind of complain after that? What excuses did they make to justify what happened? :/ 

 

-Susan  
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
4/23/2014 | 2:25:48 PM
Re: Wisdom of the Crowd
I think a combination of AI, crowd wisdom, and an individual doctor's experience probably adds up to the best of both worlds. As we've seen with IBM Watson, that system recommends treatment but leaves it up to the physician to actually prescribe the course of action. Yet, for all their education, doctors are human and have their own biases based on what they've seen in their practices and what they practice. Often surgeons, for example, will lean toward surgery as the cure for what ails a patient -- and that's understandable. But it may not necessarily be accurate.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
4/23/2014 | 1:37:32 PM
Re: Wisdom of the Crowd
@Susan they didn't send me home b/c the policy is not to do so if the water already broke, as was my case. But they insisted that my labor was not advanced enough to put me in a birthing room, so I spend most of the night in just a room with no doctor checking on me. The nurses kept insisting my contractions were "mild." When the resident finally made it to my room, I was so far advanced that the baby was born in the elevator, a they tried to move me to the floor of the birthing room.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
4/23/2014 | 10:43:38 AM
Re: Wisdom of the Crowd
Ariella,

"Health care practioners often act incredibly arrogant and ignore what patients say b/c they believe they know better."

Indeed. That after being with you for five minutes, and the fact that you have spent your whole life in your body knowing your own reactions pretty well doesn't mean a thing. 
"That's why my first baby ended up born in the hospital elevator even after I had been admitted in the hospital fo nearly 20 hours before."
 
Did they send you back home? :( Who was in the elevator with you?
 
-Susan
 
 

 
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
4/23/2014 | 9:46:01 AM
Re: Wisdom of the Crowd
" I think it's disrespectful. How can you trust someone who doesn't believe in what you say? "



@Susan I couldn't agree with you more on this. Health care practioners often act incredibly arrogant and ignore what patients say b/c they believe they know better. That's why my first baby ended up born in the hospital elevator even after I had been admitted in the hospital fo nearly 20 hours before. 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
4/23/2014 | 5:27:21 AM
Re: Wisdom of the Crowd
Alison,

" . . . thought both the condition and the side effect were in my head . . ."

In other words, he meant: "I don't know anything about your condition, therefore, it doesn't exist."

" . . . until my husband told him about how this medication totally changed me."

Why is it that some physicians don't believe in what their patient says, but believe in anyone else? I think it's disrespectful. How can you trust someone who doesn't believe in what you say? 

 ". . . CrowdMed's tech uses the wisdom of the crowd to analytically discern which responses are most likely to be accurate . . ." 

I imagine there is a lot of big data behind that. I would like to try CrowdMed. Have you thought about it? 

The more I read about these cases we discuss here the more I want an AI as my MD. I am serious about this. 

-Susan 

 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
4/22/2014 | 11:22:08 PM
Re: Wisdom of the Crowd
Ariella, 

"or maybe they just left her practice then. I did."

That's the reason why you are still alive.

Those "doctors" should pass certain controls from time to time to make sure they are not killing people, or making their condition worse. 

-Susan
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
4/22/2014 | 9:36:43 PM
Re: Wisdom of the Crowd
"Maybe they all died before they could reach her" LOL @ Susan. Yes, or maybe they just left her practice then. I did.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
4/21/2014 | 9:46:17 AM
Re: Wisdom of the Crowd
Thank you, @Juan, for sharing this research on crowd wisdom and citizen science. I look forward to exploring the page (already bookmarked!) later this week when I have a little more time. This is a really exciting area. Not a scholar in this area by any means, the concept of crowd wisdom makes sense: When you think about it, that's how we evolved to where we are today, by each of us telling friends and family and lore getting passed down from generation to generation, from village to village. Using the power of today's tools and technologies, we can really harness fact from fiction, truth from innuendo, to reap invaluable data and knowledge from millions of connected individuals. And this is only the beginning. Very exciting!
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
4/21/2014 | 9:42:06 AM
Re: Wisdom of the Crowd
In my quest for a diagnosos I had the same experience, @Susan. The doctor, who had zero bedside manner, thought both the condition and the side effect were in my head -- until my husband told him about how this medication totally changed me. I took this medicine about 10 years ago; since then, I have read hundreds of posts on sites about the awful experiences people have had while on it. Yet this physician didn't want to hear one word about it. I understand pharmaceutical companies cannot ever replicate the tests that occur when real patients take medication for real conditions. Sites like CrowdMed give patients a useful way to share their insights and, perhaps, prevent people with the same condition from duplicating their mistakes.

The technology behind the system is what drives the crowd-given engine, a technology the founder wouldn't discuss too much because it is patented and viewed as their business differentiator. Like a stock market predictor, CrowdMed's tech uses the wisdom of the crowd to analytically discern which responses are most likely to be accurate, then shares that info with the person posing the question. 
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