Eight Ways Crowdsourcing Will Influence Healthcare Innovation in 2015

JAN 12

In 2012, we authored a report titled The Evolving Business Case for Social Media in Healthcare – a publication covering the range of social media influences on the industry.  These influences were essentially cloud-based approaches to sharing information between consumers, individual care professionals and healthcare organizations.

Back then, ‘Likes’ and ‘Follows’ were the social currency for market leaders Facebook and Twitter – organizations who paved the way for the emergence white labeled social solutions like Lithium and Jive.  PatientsLikeMe and other lesser known social media healthcare vendors were on the scene as social features became table stakes for the most credible digital health solutions.

As we enter 2015, crowdsourcing is evolving healthcare’s social media landscape yet again.

Crowdsourcing involves soliciting input, ideas, services and capital from online communities as opposed to traditional suppliers.  Its beauty lies in the ability to harness large and diverse groups who are primarily volunteers and part time workers, but use their collective specialized skills to divide and conquer tedious tasks and projects. Crowd-based design has become a very popular byproduct of crowdsourcing, and other variants include crowdfunding (an alternative to venture capital funding), and crowdtesting (an alternative to software testing).

Crowdsourcing in healthcare can trace its roots back to 2006 and the open innovation platform InnoCentive, but today we’re watching over 30 businesses and initiatives across eight categories with solutions that range from patient-caregiver connectivity and collaborative consumption to contagious disease surveillance.


One example of crowdsourcing in healthcare is supported by The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which has added a new crowd category to its ONC i2 Challenges program.  One ONC initiative is called Crowds Care for Cancer and is a ‘survivors challenge’ in conjunction with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to incentivize the development of innovative information management tools and applications. These tools help survivors manage their transition from specialty to primary care, for example, by facilitating activities such as coordinating recommendations, appointments, and resources from patient support networks and healthcare providers involved in their care. The winner was Medable and its app Together, which helps cancer survivors with transitions of care by linking them with caregivers and multiple providers on a HIPAA compliant platform.  Together was built collaboratively by over 50 co-designers that included survivors, caregivers and providers and funded by Medstartr.

As healthcare organizations transition to new business models, the ability to capture and track information about consumers, members and patients has become critically important.

Industries like transportation, hospitality, food, employment, design, lending and venture capital are being impacted (massively, in some cases) by crowdsourcing, which is causing us to consider how it will influence healthcare in 2015.

One small example was seen in October, as UberHEALTH launched a one day pilot in several cities allowing users to have a flu prevention pack and even a flu shot delivered to their front door by an Uber driver traveling with a nurse from Passport Health.

Kicking off the New Year… a few questions:

  • How quickly will crowdsourcing applications for cost transparency, alternative medicine, health financing, diagnosis, and interpretation of medical records emerge to help consumers better navigate the healthcare system?
  • Could large health systems like Cleveland Clinic or Mayo Clinic partner with a transportation platform like Uber to deliver medications, or shuttle care providers to a patient’s home for a medical assessment, house call or post-acute care follow up?

AnthemSamsung and Esurance are messaging about varied crowd initiatives, and GE is sponsoring Quirky, a crowd design function with dozens of projects in its Health & Fitness category.

Capital is entering the crowdsourcing space today at a faster rate than it was entering social media in its hey-day. In addition, seasoned investors and executives are involved in ramping up some pioneering crowd businesses. Google is the biggest investor in Uber, and the CEO of the crowdsourced bartering site Yerdle is a former strategy chief for Wal-Mart –healthcare will inevitably be swept along for the ride.

Let us know what you think.

Chris Hoffmann
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