How is Crowdsourcing Changing Healthcare?

Mike Gillam, 28 April 2015

Crowdsourcing has enabled companies to assemble vast assets and capabilities faster than ever before. Waze, the GPS travel navigation app acquired by Google for $1.1B, crowdsources to determine real-time traffic conditions, the locations of police officers, hazards on the road, and relies on the crowd to continually update their map using their online map editor. Map errors in your own neighborhood can be fixed by you if Waze doesn’t know a new or missing road.

1 billion people are coming online via their phones and this is opening up vast new opportunities. One area is near zero cost, crowd-sourced computation.

So hHow is crowdsourcing changing healthcare?

Crowdsourcing is being used for malaria detection. Malaria accounts for almost half of all hospitalizations in sub-saharan Africa (40%) and is the cause of death for 1 in 5 children. Researchers created a game for casual gamers to “shoot” pictures of malaria infected red blood cells after a brief training session.

Researchers discovered that if 15 gamers shot the same cell, the accuracy of the diagnosis was within 1.25% of the diagnostic decisions made my a trained pathologist.

Crowd sourcing has helped achieve breakthroughs in protein folding via games. In 2011, citizen volunteers using the site were able to configure the structure of a retroviral protease that scientists had been working 15 years to solve. The crowdsourced volunteers finished the folding in 10 days. In 2012, citizens redesigned an enzyme increasing the enzyme’s effectiveness by 18 times by adding 13 amino acids.

Crowdmed allows patients to submit their case histories publicly to be solved by a crowdsourced audience.

Both Uber and AirBnB have scaled rapidly to serve business business built almost entirely on crowdsourcing by up-skilling an existing latent workforce.

What crowdsourcing opportunities lay left for healthcare to conquer? Comment below.

Mike Gillam, MD, FACEP 2015

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