Crowdsourcing in Medicine
Today, more than 2.4 billion individuals, one third of the world’s population, are online. This is phenomenal. These networked individuals have access to real-time information and a means by which they can communicate and collaborate with anywhere in the world. Innovators are beginning to find ways to tap into this online collective resource through crowdsourcing, the outsourcing of a difficult task to the online community in order to complete the task more efficiently and accurately.
Below are some of the exciting ways crowdsourcing is improving medical care and delivery:
Scientific Research: Anyone can play Fold.it, an online game for protein structure prediction. By transforming the process of protein folding into a fun and challenging game, researchers have been able to engage the online community in a way that both players and researchers benefit. The proteins produced by players help researchers study diseases including HIV/AIDS and Alzheimer’s.
Diagnosis: Recent examples of diagnosis by Facebook and widely broadcasted online posting reveal the potential benefits of sharing medical problems with the online community.While some may not feel comfortable with sharing their medical information with the public, there is room to innovate ways patients can receive the benefits of crowdsourcing while maintaining privacy.
Medical Treatment: Websites such as Webcina and PatientsLikeMe are allowing doctors and patients to share information, questions and support in online communities to help patients navigate the healing process together, rather than alone.
Medical Transcription: The process of transcribing doctors’ voice recordings and written records into an electronic form is a tedious and slow process. Crowdsourcing this task to a broad base of transcriptionists online is a cost-effective and efficient way to get the work done.
Technology is empowering ordinary people by giving them the resources to accomplish tasks that even experts are unable to do. I think these examples are only the beginning of ways we can use our diverse online communities to continue to drive innovation and revolutionize healthcare for the better.