When it comes to utilizing the crowd, it's not always for just typing up documents or asking for design ideas. Significant strides have been made towards improving medical science and making the process more efficient and transparent, all thanks to a concerned and connected global community.
A laundry list of developments, some of which have been featured on Daily Crowdsource previously, have come about in the last two years or so alone. Crowdsourcing is revolutionizing medicine in more ways than anyone could have predicted.
The amount of data that comes in and out of a typical clinic or hospital every day is mind boggling. Records, receipts, prescriptions, case notes, insurance information - the list is endless. Crowdsourcing has already gone a long way towards making it all the more manageable by allowing people to transcribe doctor's notes and medical information over the internet. Other measures include scanning of medical records into computer readable formats and sorting them into easily searchable databases. Through utilizing systems such as captchas (automated Turing tests) and others, companies have been able to crowdsource transcriptions and check tasks by distributing as little as one word at a time to hundreds of people worldwide.
Earlier this year, scientists from the University of Southampton, The Masdar Institute, MIT, and the University of California came together to create a potentially life-saving map of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in Philadelphia. The MyHeartMap Challenge invited members of the public to participate by sending in geo-tagged pictures of AEDs that they saw around Philadelphia. The objective of the challenge is to quickly and efficiently gather the location of as many AEDs as possible. This project makes use of the information-gathering abilities of the crowd by challenging the general public to gather the information and collaborate to produce an extremely helpful health tool.
People can even submit their own medical histories online and be given diagnoses and health analyses in real-time, using the expertise of doctors all over the world. Data mining on such a large scale is only possible through sharing the load either by using computers elsewhere to provide part of the processing power, or asking users to sort the data manually.
The greater degree of interconnectivity between patients, medical professionals and experts has meant that social networking sites have been used to discuss diagnoses and get feedback on treatments, speeding up the process of getting healthy immensely. The increase in speed, efficiency and reliability of medical processes is obviously important to many people. One such instance of an important project is a current competition looking for ideas of how to speed up identification of pancreatic cancer. Often when symptoms occur, it is already too late. InnoCentive's Global Solver Community has teamed up with The Sandler-Kenner Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer to incentivize people to produce new ideas on how to reliably detect pancreatic cancer earlier. Winning Solvers will split an award pool of $10,000 and most importantly, the winning idea will become part of the medical handbook for dealing with pancreatic cancer. Financial incentive is possibly not the best way to handle what should be a kind-hearted endeavour, however, it is still work to create these solutions and offering prizes is the easiest way to get the workforce energized.
When Prize4Life's $1 million incentives were unveiled, neurologist Dr. Seward Rutkove was suitably energized and won the first challenge by creating a device that could recognize signs of muscle deterioration linked with Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). The non-profit is offering another $1 million for a treatment or cure that extends the life of ALS mice by 25% in lab experiments, no experiment to date has come close to those results. However, crowdsourcing has turned up extraordinary results before. Life Technologies has also offered multiple prizes in exchange for medical breakthroughs.
It would appear that crowdsourcing can lead to better health and also help prevent and control contagious illnesses. With a net of interested individuals and groups across the world ready to help in a variety of ways, in addition to the large and increasingly well-connected medical community that already exists, the safety net for people to fall back on in an emergency is getting wider. Such a wide and secure safety net of people can only be a good thing.