We love to connect. It’s human nature. The founders of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google figured this out long ago, creating websites and apps with billions of interactions daily. And thanks to these companies and a host of others focused on cloud, social and mobile, crowdsourcing has emerged as a transformational force to help organizations and individuals:
- Quickly solve critical and complex problems
- Find and design solutions
- Conceptualize more possibilities
- Act faster
- Make better decisions
“Crowds are more than wise – they are talented, creative, and stunningly productive.”
To his point, organizations throughout the world have successfully leveraged crowds for a range of initiatives including:
- Brand building (LEGO, Coke)
- Saving lives (MyHeartChallenge)
- Verifying information (WeGoLook)
- Content creation (Google, iStockPhoto, and Mobcaster)
- Emergency response (Haiti, AMBER alerts)
- Fundraising (Top 10 Crowdfunding Sites For Fund Raising)
- Product development (Unilever’s open innovation, General Mills innovation opportunities)
- Finding creative solutions (White House, NASA, Oil Spill Recovery Institute)
Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg.
What will happen now that everyone (worldwide) can direct resources that once were available to only the biggest companies and wealthiest people?
Learnings from Howe and many others since have convinced me that widespread crowdsourcing in healthcare is inevitable. The industry needs better collaboration among government agencies, community organizations, insurers, patients, technology vendors, providers, scientists and suppliers. And this alone is enough to warrant well-targeted crowdsourcing initiatives.
Given the brainpower within the industry and so many eager people willing to contribute, the time may be perfect to leverage this wide-scale human computation.
To be fair, there are healthcare stakeholders today who have successfully used crowdsourcing to tackle big issues. And that’s what gives me so much hope.
To show you some of what’s happening, here are 20 great examples of crowdsourcing in healthcare:
1. Predicting illness diagnoses for patients who haven’t been able to get answers. Jared Heyman, CrowdMed’s CEO, claims, “In roughly 80% of cases, our patients tell us that the crowd produced accurate diagnostic suggestions.”
2. Creating content (by collecting data) that identifies the locations of life-saving devices for use by the public.
3. Finding cures to diseases such as ALS, a terminal disease whose cause has eluded scientists for over a century.
4. Finding solutions to tough scientific problems by supporting the development of the Team Science Toolkit at the National Cancer Institute.
5. Reducing costs for multiple chronic conditions by reducing expenses associated with numerous specialist consultations and unnecessary tests.
6. Reducing costs using sites such as Doctible to make them transparent to the public.
7. Advancing neurotechnology with crowds and gamification through widespread application development.
8. Testing and validating healthcare products and services with customers.
9. Achieving reach and speed at relatively low costs to gather feedback and improve health systems.
10. Setting up competitions to develop devices that will give consumers access to their state of health in the palm of their hand.
11. Improving healthcare quality and population health by equipping clinics to systematically address patients’ unmet social needs.
12. Generating ideas to improve healthcare (e.g., onebillionminds.com).
13. Monitoring disease and illness outbreaks with these 5 sites and HealthTracking.net.
14. Aggregate researchers to create pharmaceuticals.
15. Documenting and discovering new knowledge with community annotation and collaborative knowledge discovery called WikiProteins.
16. Contributing and using protocols to improve pharmaceutical research.
17. DIY Biology, a community of Do-It-Yourself biologists.
18. Finding, using and sharing scientific workflows and other research objects.
19. Sharing knowledge, rating treatments based on their experiences and trading advice when it comes down to treating various ailments.
20. Discovering novel therapies for neglected tropical diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, leishmaniasis, etc., with open source drug discovery.
As you can see, there are a lot of possibilities. From reducing costs safely by improving treatments and speeding the adoption of effective protocols to accelerating scientific advancements, social technologies (such as crowdsourcing) have provided real solutions that have solved some of the world’s most complex problems.
Take your first step into crowdsourcing by identifying your goals and understanding the need. Then match the business problem you’re trying to solve with specific use cases.
Here are some basic questions you’ll want to ask:
What type of work is most suitable to solve my problem?
- Will I have focused tasks such as data collection, content creation, searching, analyzing or designing?
- Do I need opinions, brainstorming or testing?
- Do I want open innovation, or do I want to the crowd to build or solve something specific?
- Is my objective to engage stakeholders for their support?
- Am I seeking funding?
Who is the most appropriate audience for the crowd – anyone, scientists, patients, etc.?
What incentives should I put in place to encourage participation – financial, ego, competition, etc.?
How will the crowdsourcing event or process be promoted?
How will the activity be managed? Who is the community owner? What software will be used?
Now that you’ve heard from me, I’d like to hear from you. Have you seen crowdsourcing being used in your organization, community or the industry? What do you think about it? Do you have any examples you’d be willing to share? Are there problems you want to solve or are interested in solving?