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Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding in Medicine

In recent months, I’ve come across (seen without looking for it) several stories about how people are using social media (websites that allow people to contact each other and their friends) to help each other with medical issues.

The first trend is not new, but the use of social media has made it easier: “crowdsourcing.” Crowdsourcing is when you pose (present) a problem to a specific group of people and ask them to come up with possible answers or solutions. When using social media, that specific group can be made up of (consist of; contain) hundreds or thousands of people who put their minds to (think about) the information or question that is posed and then suggest answers and solutions in response. Of course the quality of responses is only as good as the “source” that is being asked, but the beauty of (advantage of) using social media is that you can cast a wide net (reach many people across a great distance) and benefit from the consensus (agreement) of the majority (most people).

Crowdsourcing is now being used by some people to find diagnoses (identification of the causes) of medical conditions that have stumped (puzzled) patients’ own doctors. In one case mentioned in a recent Time magazine article, a woman’s husband posted her medical history, test results, and other health information on social media sites after doctors at Harvard and Stanford — two well-respected medical schools and hospitals — were unable to reach a diagnosis. They received more an 1,000 posts a day from countries all over the world and resulted in the patient being tested again for a rare (not common) condition that might be the cause of her symptoms (indications of illness).

Another trend in medicine that uses social media is “crowdfunding.” As many of you already know, healthcare in the U.S. is not free. Some Americans with full-time jobs have health insurance that pays for some, though not all, health costs. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t have any health insurance at all and must pay for all healthcare out of pocket (out of their own money).

Several new websites now allow people to ask friends and strangers (people we don’t know personally) to help pay for expensive medical procedures and treatments, and even surgical operations (major medical procedure where doctors cut into the body). Normally, family members and close friends are the first to be contacted and are the first donors (givers), but because it is easy on large social media sites such as Facebook to contact strangers in large numbers, strangers who are moved by (have strong feelings about) a patient’s story may also donate. Because it’s easy for just anyone to ask for money on these websites, they have put in some safeguards (protections) against fraud (efforts to cheat people), though false appeals (efforts to ask people for help) are still possible. Despite this, crowdfunding is helping people who would otherwise not get the medical care they need.

Have you come across or used crowdsourcing or crowdfunding where you live? Would you considering using these methods to benefit your own or family members’ health?

~ Lucy

Picture Credit: The Anatomy Lesson of Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt from Wikipedia

14 Responses to “Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding in Medicine”

  1. Dan Says:

    Hello everyone

    Yes! I have heard about crowdsomething on the radio.
    It seems a positive thing.

    I have once heard something similar about lending or borrowing stuff.
    It was kind of if I have a drill and you do not I’ll lend it to you. Next time you might have a step ladder I borrow it from you.
    That sounds terrific: Don’t you think?

    There are many positive aspects of that; save money, you are pushed to getting in contact with your neigbhor, less stuff stored in the garage..
    I would like to have that in my neighborhood. Just yesterday I was chatting with this gentlemen on Skype I was telling him that nowadays
    it’s easier speaking with someone across the ocean than with my neigbhor. That kind of sad\ironic

    Yeah, I would consider that If I had that necessity. I must add though that here in”socialist” Europe, as someone calls us, in general we have a quite good Health Care System
    that take care of rich and poor.

    Thanks.

  2. Ana Claudia Lara Says:

    Yes, crowdsourcing to help science (Astronomy, Medicine, etc). The site is called zooniverse and it’s great!

  3. Says:

    This kind of “information sharing” is broader than we can imagine.
    I’m a mathematician and there are (at least) three websites where people can ask questions
    and try to solve problems (relevant ones) just by sharing a piece of advice.
    There is also something called “new science” where the root of it is collaboration, massive (online) collaboration.
    Just to mention, two of the math problems solved in this way would (and did) make a great paper in any journal of the field.

  4. Dan Says:

    Me again,

    I just wanted to add that when I say we have a good. Health Care System. here in Europe
    I do not mean to be judgmental or making comparison with other systems in place
    In other Countries.
    I am not saying this system is better or worse.

    Bye.

  5. emiliano Says:

    Dear Lucy,

    by my side I have not ever used crowdsourcing or crowdfunding by the web but in real life, personally Yes, I have
    participated or give some help to buy medicines that could be too expensive for some people.

    As Dan said here till the moment we have a good health care system, may be one of the best as by surcical operations
    and the necessary medicines after or along the operation you pay nothing, nothing till the point of Spain was a country
    to come for europeans from U.K., Germany or other coming from the the European Union to have a hip prosthesis
    operation or another king of surcical operations.
    This king of procedure was called “health tourist” as being registered in Spain they pay nothing also, less than in their
    own countries.

    What have happened now? It is very easy of imagined …..”Medical Social Security” is broken and the debts of the
    Health Care System is of thousand of millions euros.
    Now it is necessary new forms of “co-pay” and people are very angry about the new medical taxes.

    From September here in Madrid and other big cities there are lot of doctor and hospital strikes because they are against
    these kind of tax measures or privatise Health Public Sanity…one of the best of the world as they said and it is true….
    but the politicians said this is un-sustainable.

    In fact Spain it is the country of the world where most transplants are performed, and they absolutely free.
    The organs donations is regulated by law and is absolutely free and universal without any cost to the patients in
    the public hospitals system. No other methods are allowed what is really good for everybody. Rich and poors
    have the same rights about this subject.

    Now what is going to happen with the Public Health Care in Spain?….well I do not know but I would like to know
    because there is much discomfort and protests among the population….everything is going down with the crisis.

    Thanks a lot dear Lucy, just a very interesting subject.

    emiliano

  6. Marcos Says:

    Thank you Lucy for this new terms I’ve just learned. I’d like to thank you Emiliano too for the report about the Public Healthe System in Spain. Very interesting.

  7. Peter Says:

    Happy new year Dear Lucy,
    The first official post of 2013 done by Lucy:)

    Crowd-funding huh? That is rich :))

    I had never heard of such appeal methods. It is all new to me. It must be a new trend. Well,it is one of the joys of living in the cyber world:))
    However,I must say,I wouldn’t fall for it. I mean ,one day u open up your cyber page and see there is a new message telling a long ,heartfelt story about survivors and how they need some financial aid to continue so. The story is tragic and touchy,so for a second or two the story has you going there. And,there you go ,you are ,say, 200 poorer and some unknown identity   out there is 200 richer. I m not saying all these appeal messages are trying to scam you into giving up your money. Still, there are a lot of swindlers out there trying to trick you out of money. Who’s to say which of the urging messages out there  is genuine  which is not. It can get a tad tricky,can’t it ?
    I ,for one ,never fall for such acts. 
    There are various  out-reach programs running by non-profit organizations with a giving hand. So, let them do their jobs and not try to intervene.  “air quoting”  

    Peter

  8. emiliano Says:

    Hi Peter do you have facebook account?
    Talking with Dan a moment ago we have a very good time writing in English
    very fast and he asked me if you Peter or Betty, or another friend may have
    Facebook.
    I said to him that it could be possible and the best it could be just to ask.
    Sergio also has and we change things and talks between us.
    Quite good exercise as for an hour or more we are thinking in English.
    Don’t you think so Dan?….He has the idea and now I put it here, sorry Dan
    my friend…..emi is always too fast.

    just the best for the new year to all.

    emiliano

  9. Peter Says:

    Guys ,
    Don’t get me wrong
    I m not a negative nally.
    I don’t see just down side or negative stuff in things. But , it is my spin on it. If u want you can turn a positive spin to it.
    Still , there are a lot of people out there who take advatage of good hearted people like yourselves whom all they have on their minds is to reach out.
    I know sometimes my comments come off callously. It is not because I m an insensitive person. You know , I usually bang out a parageraph or so in here without looking it over or running spell check or sth.
    I m too lazy to do so.
    So , dont take me as an insensitive jerk who is critical of everything.

    Peace out !!

    Peter

  10. Peter Says:

    Good thinking on your part Dan
    And thanks to you Emiliono for putting the idea out there.
    It is a good excercise , in deed!!!
    But ,as much as I love to , I don’t run any facebook acount or sth.
    The thing is , I m not a computer person.
    I m not big on cyber stuff
    But , the idea is dead on !!

    thanks for the offer,though !!

    Yours
    Pete

  11. Dan Says:

    You won Emiliano. You are too fast for me;-)

    You are like a cat. You must have learned something from Gatufo, Haven’t you?:-)

    I saw you today talking with him…:-)

    No, really guys. I would like to see you. And if you wanna se how beautiful I am, friends Emiliano on Facebook.
    I made myself visible only to friends. How many friends have I? Well, so far three: Emi, Cuca and Gatufo.

    Emiliano, I am still waiting the aswer to my question; What were you thinking when you draw that picture you have on the wall…did you do that in the 70s?

    Bye Bye!

  12. Ferman Golla Says:

    Hi, Dr Lucy.
    Thanks for the informative topics, I think this is a good method in spread out our care for people who needs help. Especially they who lives in poverty or poor countries with I have to say bad healthcare..
    I’m sure that many people are still live in suffer out there and need a helping hand..
    By this,, I want to be a friend with them who always give comments in this blog… May I…??:)
    Wish you and Dr McQuillan a Happy New Year..

    Ferman Golla from Indonesia

  13. Tatyana Says:

    I know FundRazr, the largest social fundraising platform in Canada. It’s simple and secured to use and free to get started. Using FundRazr you can easily create your campaign (to raise money for anything) and
    share it widely online (Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pininterest, different blogs and etc.)

    I like it.

  14. emiliano Says:

    Thanks Tatyana, i search for the site and I am in already.
    Just going to see it carefully this morning and put it in my google
    blog, thanks a lot.

    emiliano