Diagnosis by Crowd

by RaeAnne Marsh


Spurred by his sister’s prolonged suffering with a medical condition that eluded diagnosis by top doctors, Jared Heyman founded CrowdMed to “harness the wisdom of crowds,” especially to help people with rare or difficult to diagnose conditions. He observes, “The crowd is collectively smarter than even the smartest people in the world.”

Individuals complete a questionnaire and have the option to upload other files — with identifying information redacted. HIPAA restrictions to do not apply, as the law allows individuals to share their own medical information. “Medical detectives” — Heyman’s term for doctors who have registered to participate on the site — then submit their diagnosis, and the site ranks them based on a patented prediction market technology developed for the program that works in a way similar to a virtual stock market.

Explains Heyman, each diagnosis has a “stock price” on the back end, and, as the medical detectives bet on the likely outcome, that stock price rises and falls. “The system looks at the point-betting behavior, and assigns probabilities to the diagnoses.” While all of the responses are provided to the patient, Heyman says, “The final report highlights the most probable diagnoses or solutions — the ones that have the most support or consensus among our medical community as measured by the point-betting behavior.”

Launched at a medical conference in April 2013, the site operates as an information resource. This circumvents issues of malpractice insurance. Notes Heyman, “We give the patient a short list of the most probably diagnoses or solutions to discuss with their own doctor. We are not providing definitive diagnoses or treatment plans.”

Patients purchase one of three levels of service for a flat fee, and Heyman accepts a limited number of cases pro-bono. Patients have the option to offer an additional cash incentive to the medical detectives, but Heyman says the doctors report it is more motivating to them to help people who have been suffering with a difficult medical condition. “It’s why they got into medicine in the first place, without having to worry about malpractice and reimbursement,” he says.

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