It is not uncommon for healthcare providers to warn patients about seeking out medical information online in an effort to self-diagnose and even attempt to treat their ailments. The plethora of information the internet provides us, whether it be from the the often-cited WebMD, to self-help blogs, to countless health message boards where essentially anyone can post, is both a blessing and a curse. Unfortunately, even with years of training and practice, healthcare professionals too have found themselves unable to accurately diagnose some unique and unusual medical cases.
“No doctor has all the answers, and that’s not a discredit to the medical community, it’s just an impossible expectation” explains Tricia Ismail, communications director of CrowdMed, an innovative information-sharing platform aimed at effectively troubleshooting these difficult medical cases. Ismail goes on to explain that “when you put together 100 heads who have unique sets of medical knowledge to solve these cases, it can be more effective than any one single doctor.”
CrowdMed harnesses the power and wisdom of crowds to help diagnose unsolved medical cases for people suffering from chronic symptoms who are desperate for answers.
The organization was founded by Jared Heyman after he witnessed his sister suffer from an unknown medical disease that severely affected her memory and consciousness, a condition that went undiagnosed for three years. It wasn’t until she had the opportunity to consult with a multi-disciplinary team of medical experts, who collaborated their medical knowledge, that Heyman’s sister was finally diagnosed with Fragile x-associated primary ovarian insufficiency. Although rare (found in only 1 out of 15,000 people), the disorder is very easy to treat, and within a month of treatment her symptoms had all but disappeared, and she was feeling back to her normal self.
CrowdMed is based around this collaboration model; it uses patented crowdsourcing technologies and an “easily accessible online platform that aggregates collective intelligence and facilitates collaboration among a world of medical experts.”
How it works
After paying a 2-month minimum subscription fee (the appropriate amount of time for a medical professional to thoroughly investigate a case) patients can anonymously upload medical information and fill out a questionnaire on their medical ailment. Contributors, referred to as medical detectives, then work together on the case through Crowdmed’s chat and discussion features, in order to come up with the best diagnosis and solution for that case.
Unlike your typical online message board where anyone can hand out advice regardless of credentials (or lack thereof), CrowdMed relies on thorough filtration and moderator processes in order to provide patients with only the most accurate medical information, which can then be tested and verified by the patient’s doctor.
Based on their experience in medicine, medical detectives are given a rank from 1 to 10, which affects the amount of influence they can have on a case. An everyday individual without medical training is naturally assigned a lower level, meaning they can only support answers that have already been submitted as opposed to submitting their own medical solutions. This compares to medical detectives with an MD, who, at level 6, can work on more complex cases.
And then there are licensed physicians. While every medical detective can work their way up in rank through their contribution to cases, only physicians can act as moderators who oversee each case. And to become a moderator, a more stringent vetting process, including an interview and review of medical credentials is required to ensure each applicant is qualified. Case moderators must approve all diagnostic solutions, making sure they are being submitted with an appropriate amount of medical information and evidence.
Diagnosis and collaboration
Once diagnoses make it past the moderator, they are awarded points by the medical detectives based on which one they think is the most accurate. At the end of the case the patient is presented with a report that lists the most likely diagnoses, which they can present to their doctor who can test and confirm the results.
Medical detectives, too, get the invaluable opportunity to connect and collaborate with specialists from around the world. While helping Crowdmed patients, medical professionals get to to stay on top of and strengthen their diagnostic skills. It’s also great experience for medical students to practice diagnosing.
“I think what makes CrowdMed special is its community, first and foremost,” says Ismail. “CrowdMed provides patients not just with a diagnosis, but also with the emotional support and care that allows them to truly be heard throughout the process. It also provides a community for nurses, doctors, medical students, and others to spread their diagnostic wings and extend their medical knowledge by collaborating with other experts in the medical community. At the end of the day, CrowdMed creates tangible benefits for everyone who is involved in the process.”
Aptly named, Enclothed Cognition is the official Medelita blog for medical professionals interested in topics relevant to a discerning and inquisitive audience. Medelita was founded by a licensed clinician who felt strongly about the connection between focus, poise and appearance.