Economics - General


Last week, I had an interview with Jared Heyman, Founder of the CrowdMed website. What is CrowdMed? Here is the website in the firm’s own words

CrowdMed ( is harnessing “the wisdom of crowds” to help solve the world’s most difficult medical cases quickly and accurately. On CrowdMed, a patient with an undiagnosed medical condition can post his or her case and CrowdMed’s community of ‘Medical Detectives’ collaborate on solving it — using a patented prediction market system that collects their “bets” on the most likely diagnoses and solutions. Using this methodology, CrowdMed members have solved 200+ challenging medical cases that have stumped individual physicians for years.

The CrowdMed states why this is a great idea. I was more interested in how it works. For instance, who solves these cases?

Mr. Heyman calls the medical experts on his site “Medical Dectectives.” Medical detectives can be physicians, medical students, nurses, patients with the disease, or just about anyone. Empirically, a large share of the Medical Dectectives are medical students, foreign doctors, and other health care professionals.

If there is no screening, why would anyone listen to the advice of an unlicensed Medical Detective?
One word: Reputation. The CrowdMed algorithm solicits advice from any Medical Detectives that want to participate. However the opinions of Medical Detectives that have a better track record of solving cases have their guesses given more weight that Medical Detectives that are novices or who do not have a good diagnosis track record.

Why would any Medical Detective want to participate?
There are a number of reasons. First is altriusm. Second is cash rewards. To incentivize Medical Detectives to solve their case, patients offer up a reward. The Medical Detectives who diagnose the disease correctly get to split the reward. The Medical Detectives place bets. Larger bets entitle you to a larger share of the winnings. However, if you place a large be and lose, your reputation on CrowdMed will suffer.

How is a winning diagnosis decided?
The winning diagnosis is determined by the patient. The patient receives trend statistics on which diagnoses are most likely. The patient can take these suggestions in-person to a new doctor to see if any of the proposed diagnoses hit the mark. Originally, CrowdMed required patients to get a confirmed diagnosis from a doctor but this delayed the process and now all “winners” are selected by patients.

Who is the typical patient that uses CrowdMed?
These are patients generally with serious, difficult-to-diagnose chronic illnesses. Patients using CrowdMed have annual medical costs of $55,000. According to company statistics, 80% of patients say they receive better diagnosis on CrowdMed than through their physician.

CrowdMed will not replace in-person diagnosis–particularly for acute conditions. However, using prediction markets to identify patient diagnoses is one way to have the internet help improve patient health.

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