Ever wondered what it would feel like to be Dr. House for a day and solve medical mysteries? CrowdMed might be able to help you. It is a service that harnesses the "wisdom of crowds" to solve medical problems, and more specifically conditions that are really difficult to diagnose.
Over 350 million people worldwide, roughly 8% of the population, suffer from one of 7,000 rare and difficult-to-diagnose medical diseases. It often takes them many years and dozens of doctor visits to find a correct diagnosis, and some of them die without one. CrowdMed believes that the answers may not only lie in the expert hands of doctors but also in regular people who can provide valuable insight and clues based on their experiences and knowledge.
The service aims to democratize and virtualize the collaborative process seen in teaching hospitals, where physicians and trainees work together to solve cases. The site provides a unique, patented technology, that aggregates and distills group intelligence specifically for medical diagnostic purposes. Its staff doesn't lay any claims to solving cases but leaves it to the "medical detectives" (MD's), who are its users, to help patients, many of whom have spent years suffering while searching for a diagnosis.
The way the service works is by allowing a patient to post anonymously his symptoms, family background, and relevant test results. After that, about a hundred medical detectives are assigned to work on the case. Finally, their diverse knowledge is aggregated through a patented technology, and "consensus" diagnostic suggestions are produced in the form of a report showing the most likely cause of the patient's symptoms.
The project has been 4 years and several rounds of funding in the making. It was inspired by a founder's sister, Carly, who fell ill with a rare disease that took 3 years to diagnose, costing her family $100,000 and a lot of suffering in the process. CrowdMed wants to help the many families and individuals who find themselves in Carly's situation. Doctors can't be expected to be familiar with and keep track of thousands of unique medical disorders. However, the creators of the site believe that groups hold far more knowledge, can process information faster, and provide more unbiased opinions than individuals.
It costs $199 to submit a case, and the fee is fully refundable if the patient doesn't receive an accurate diagnosis. Even though the site is still in its beta testing, there already are 4000 detectives, representing 71 countries, working on cases. About a third of them work in or study medicine. So far, the service claims to have helped saved nearly $4 million dollars in health care costs.