Medical Detectives Are Crowdsourcing Patient Diagnosis

On The Quick

Medical Detectives Are Crowdsourcing Patient Diagnosis

Calling all Nurse Sherlocks and Dr. Watsons

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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If you’re looking for extra income working as a nurse, but don’t want to take on additional shifts or run immunization clinics, you might try your hand at solving challenging medical mysteries through an unusual new Silicon Valley tech startup.

Many modern Internet phenomena involve collaborative efforts: flash mobs, wikis, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing. Now, CrowdMed, a new company founded by marketing executive Jared Heyman, is applying the concept of crowdsourcing to medical diagnosis.

A Sleuth in Scrubs

Here’s how it works. A patient with an undiagnosed medical condition posts his or her case on the CrowdMed website, where CrowdMed’s online medical detectives — including nurses, retired doctors, medical students and others — can weigh in on possible diagnoses. Based on those contributions, CrowdMed then uses a patented prediction market system to calculate the most likely diagnosis and solution, which the patient can take to his or her primary physician. The company claims that more than 200 cases have been solved this way so far.

Patients have several options for using the service. A patient can opt for a free listing for 30 days or pay a fee to have the case listed for a longer period of time and attract more detectives. CrowdMed collects 10 percent of the fees, the rest of which are distributed among the participating detectives based on a point system. Detectives must establish a “DetectiveRank” by participating in free cases before being allowed to contribute to paid ones.

Potential Problems

All CrowdMed patients and detectives are anonymous to reduce the risk of HIPAA violations. However, malpractice liability remains a potential concern. The company’s terms of service stress that the diagnosis or solution presented to the patient “is not actual nor otherwise implied medical advice,” but whether the courts will agree remains to be seen.

The company says that the solutions eventually presented to patients are an amalgamation of the various contributions and aren’t based on the advice of any one detective, which may limit your personal liability. On the other hand, remember that malpractice insurance provided by your employer rarely protects you outside of work hours. Tread cautiously.  

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