The Role of Crowdsourcing in the Healthcare Industry

Chapter by Kabir C. Sen: “The twenty first century has seen the advent of technical advances in storage, transmission and analysis of information. This has had a profound impact on the field of medicine. However, notwithstanding these advances, various obstacles remain in the world regarding the improvement of human lives through the provision of better health care. The obstacles emanate from the demand (i.e., the problem) as well as the supply (i.e., the solution) side. In some cases, the nature of the problems might not have been correctly identified. In others, a solution to a problem could be known only to a small niche of the global population. Thus, from the demand perspective, the variety of health care issues can range from the quest for a cure for a rare illness to the inability to successfully implement verifiable preventive measures for a disease that affects pockets of the global population. Alternatively, from the supply perspective, the approach to a host of health issues might vary because of fundamental differences in both medical philosophies and organizational policies.

In many instances, effective solutions to health care problems are lacking because of inadequate global knowledge about the particular disease. Alternatively, in other cases, a solution might exist but the relevant knowledge about it might only be available to selected pockets of the global medical community. Sometimes, the barriers to the transfer of knowledge might have their root causes in ignorance or prejudice about the initiator of the cure or solution. However, the advent of information technology has now provided an opportunity for individuals located at different geographical locations to collaborate on solutions to various problems. These crowdsourcing projects now have the potential to extract the “wisdom of crowds” for tackling problems which previously could not be solved by a group of experts (Surowiecki, 2014). Anecdotal evidence suggests that crowdsourcing has achieved some success in providing solutions for a rare medical disease (Arnold, 2014). This chapter discusses crowdsourcing’s potential to solve medical problems by designing a framework to evaluate its promises and suggest recommended future paths of actions….(More)”.