A healthy body and mind is probably the most common answer, when asked what we wish for in our future. Getting seriously ill is of course something we hope to never become, however when faced with this situation getting diagnosed and treated appropriately seems rather logical. But, what if you’ve seen countless medical experts and no one seems to be able to help you? Introducing; CrowdMed.
The creators of CrowdMed understand that, due to an endless amount of different diseases and disorders, it is highly unlikely for any doctor to know every possible condition associated with a specific set of symptoms. To overcome this problem, they use patented crowdsourcing technologies and an online platform that aggregates collective intelligence and facilitates collaboration among medical experts all over the world. The combination of the crowd and advanced analytics helps solve these cases within just days! By using the wisdom of (and collaboration between medical) practitioners and providing personal reports, CrowdMed differs from other platforms such as PatientsLikeMe, HealthTap and iTriage.
So how does it work?
When signing up as a case solver you are officially named a “Medical Detective”. Medical Detectives do not need to be licensed physicians to participate, however CrowdMed does believe in evidence and science-based diagnoses and thus strongly prefers objective medical evidence. In order to actually be eligible for any monetary rewards you need a certain degree of “DetectiveRating”, which is based on a performance and credential-based reputation system. However, you can participate in diagnosing a patient without any form of relevant education. Even I, Nienke with one year of biology experience in high school could help you with your mysterious symptoms.
Patients are asked to fill in an extensive questionnaire when starting a new case. In addition, they need to upload all medical information, all of which can be done anonymously. The patient then decides how long the case will be online and how they want to reward the Medical Detectives, who helped solve the case. This is a based on a combination of points (which increases DetectiveRatings) and monetary compensations.
CrowdMed uses a prediction market algorithm to assign probabilities to each diagnostic suggestion based upon Medical Detectives’ previous performance and behavior. These suggestions are bundled in a report and provided to the patient after the case is closed. The report includes the top diagnostic and solution suggestions, solution details and patient conversations. The patient is advised to these with the doctor.
When uploading a case patients need to pay a monthly subscription of $149 – $749 depending on the specific DetectiveRating degree of the Detectives they would like to work on their case. These amounts seem gigantic. However in the United States, where not everybody is insured, this could be only a fraction of the costs they otherwise would have paid when consulting with doctors on their own. After the case is closed, the biggest chunk is divided amongst participating Detectives and 10% stays with CrowdMed as a commission fee. Because of the unique nature of CrowdMed (bringing numerous ‘medical’ practitioners together), it is unfeasible for patients to replicate the service without this mediating platform.
Some drawbacks, however…
Firstly, Medical Detectives do not need any medical background to participate and thus the reliability and quality of diagnoses may be questionable. Moreover, by using a prediction market model, diagnoses are based on non-transparent algorithms and thus it is difficult to assess why certain suggestions rank higher than others.
Secondly, when not satisfied with the outcome, patients do not get their money back. In my eyes this is unethical when working with desperate people, as CrowdMed’s only certainty is the fact that they will cash big sums of money regardless of the outcome. Thus, there is no incentive to ensure for high quality services.
Lastly, diagnoses made by the Medical Detectives do not guarantee for correctness nor do they guarantee for any therapy. This all depends on the willingness of the patient’s practitioner. So spending hundreds of dollars on uncertified/self-proclaimed physicians may get you nowhere in the end. However, possible complaints about quality or applicability of the reports are discouraged by an extensive list of legal compliances, member conducts, warranty disclaimers, limitations of liability and a medical service disclaimer. I suddenly feel symptoms of suspiciousness…