The Benefits of Crowdsourcing Medicine

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Defined as “the process of seeking a problem's solution from a wide community, often online,” crowdsourcing is common in almost every sector (Sanghavi 1). However, many patients may be unaware that they can also crowdsource their healthcare decisions. Referred to as “a second opinion writ large,” crowdsourcing medical diagnoses is now possible through many different online platforms including CrowdMed and the more artificial intelligence (AI)-driven HumanDx (Arnold 1). The way medical crowdsourcing works is a little more complicated than asking for fine dining tips in Tokyo or even asking the general public for clues to solving a crime. With crowdsourced medicine using the CrowdMed model, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers essentially compete for whoever offers the most accurate diagnosis, and receive financial compensation for accurate hits. Compensation is higher for difficult to diagnose problems. The HumanDx platform is different, available only to physicians at the moment and uses AI instead of human input. Regardless of the model being used, crowdsourcing medicine presents a host of ethical and legal problems. When these legal and ethical kinks are ironed out of the system, crowdsourced medicine should become fully integrated into the global healthcare system. Crowdsourcing medicine prevents some of the problems that currently plague the profit-driven and paternalistic healthcare system, allowing all patients to receive an evidence-based, culturally sensitive, intelligent assessment of their needs.

Crowdsourcing is controversial because it has the potential to radically transform the relationship between patients and healthcare providers. For example, crowdsourcing potentially threatens the position of authority many doctors depend on to maintain their professional status. As Sanghavi points out, doctors for millennia have “jealously guarded their secrets,” at least in the European model of medicine (1). Yet all medical diagnoses are to a degree already being crowdsourced, as teams of healthcare professionals often collaborate (Arnold 1). Collaboration among medical professionals may be more common in some countries or healthcare settings than in others, making the adaptation to a crowdsourcing model of diagnosis easier for some than others to swallow. The current medical model has veered towards paternalism, in spite of ethical principles guarding patient autonomy. Crowdsourcing empowers patients, allowing them to receive accurate medical diagnoses anonymously and from a team of medical professionals.
Especially in light of the already impersonal nature of the modern medical model, crowdsourcing does not supplant the role that doctors and nurses play. In fact, many patients “feel as if their doctors aren’t actually listening to them,” which is why they turn to crowdsourcing in the first place (Sruthi, on “Blind Spot,” 1).

Whereas using the Internet for self-diagnosis can be problematic, leading to misdiagnosis and hypochondria, crowdsourcing medicine actually has the potential to reduce medical error overall. Crowdsourcing can divert patients away from unreliable sources of information towards a well-informed community. Although research substantiates the potential for crowdsourcing to improve the accuracy of medical diagnoses, credibility is one of the main reasons doctors and patients fear crowdsourcing medicine. One of the reasons why crowdsourcing medicine has become controversial is that with CrowdMed, a medical license or even a medical background is not required to be one of the “medical detectives” offering diagnoses (Arnold 1). The lack of background checking on CrowdMed makes the system seem unlikely to work well. However, the reasoning behind the support for amateur medical sleuths is surprisingly simple: “CrowdMed is a performance-based system,” not a system based on someone’s title or position of authority (Arnold 1). A title and a license do not necessarily guarantee an accurate diagnosis of a problem. After all, many retired healthcare workers can be sleuths but not legally practice medicine. Likewise, many former patients with direct experience with rare diseases can offer accurate diagnoses their doctors might have missed. The CrowdMed system awards accuracy of the participants’ diagnoses, not the caliber of medical school one attended.

Moreover, crowdsourcing has built-in safeguards to protect patients from misinformation and ensure that patients use the information they receive wisely, legally, and ethically. The technology is always advancing, and CrowdMed is only one company that specializes in crowdsourcing medicine. Other companies might follow suit to provide a more competitive market that enhances the quality of diagnoses. Even now, the CrowdMed system guards against amateur diagnoses by using a ranking system that weights licensed physicians higher….....

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Works Cited

Arnold, Carrie. “Can the Crowd Solve Medical Mysteries?” NOVA Next. 20 Aug, 2014. Retrieved online:

“Blind Spot.” Retrieved online:
CrowdMed. Website:

Couch, Christina. “Crowdsourced Medicine Is Transforming the Diagnosis of Rare Disorders.” NBC News. 6 Mar, 2017. Retrieved online:

Sanghavi, Darshak. “The Doctors Will See You Now.” Slate. Oct 6, 2010. Retrieved online:

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