Written By: Cyndi Laurenti
One of the most powerful computing trends that has emerged on the Internet in the past few years is crowdsourcing. In a nutshell, crowdsourcing refers to the outsourcing of a particular task to a wide range of people online to get the job done quicker. In the medical field, it can apply to diagnosis, coding and billing, and data collection, among other specialties. While there are a number of different ways to use crowdsourcing within the healthcare industry, there are a few key areas where it's really taking hold in a visible way at the moment. Here are just a few of the many ways that the crowdsourcing of medical work is being accomplished today.
One of the biggest bottlenecks in the treatment of diseases and patients is the billing and coding process, which has become more complicated and byzantine in recent years. Medical coding refers to the translation of written records and notes into an electronic format so that they can be entered into a database, as well as the identification of various diseases and conditions. Medical transcription is the process of taking a doctor's dictated voice records and transcribing them into a written format. People can already learn to perform medical coding tasks and transcription jobs online from a number of Internet-based training courses and programs. Thanks to public-key encryption, they can also securely perform such jobs from their homes. Having medical coders and translators work from home saves money and time both for the employers and the employees. Expect this trend of home-based medical support work to accelerate in the coming years.
Diagnosis and Treatment
When it comes to diagnosis, crowdsourcing is a fertile field for the exploration of user-derived knowledge. Physicians in some countries are already using Twitter to gather feedback from patients and regular web surfers, as well as perform research in specific areas of medicine. Webicina is just one website that directly integrates medicine and social media in the quest to make medical care more open, efficient, and transparent. Furthermore, Facebook is being used to help diagnose diseases and conditions that even trained physicians may have overlooked.
Research and Big Data
The recent victory of IBM's Watson AI supercomputer on Jeopardy shows just how far we've come in terms of data mining and parallel computing. Watson and machines just like it are already being used to mine extensive electronic health records to help doctors and support staff make better diagnoses of patients in real time. Patients and potential patients can go online and submit their own medical history to special medical records websites, which can then be combed through by AI computing clusters like Watson to quickly look for patterns and speed up medical treatment.
What's truly exciting about crowdsourcing as applied to the field of medicine is that we're just beginning to fully explore the potential for ordinary, everyday people to improve medical care. This innovative process is really in its infancy at the moment, but the results we've already seen have been impressive. In the coming years, cloud computing and crowdsourcing will not only help improve medical care but also help to create novel new treatments through research projects. Ultimately, the power of medical crowdsourcing will dramatically increase the quality and length of the average human life through the collective efforts of billions of people around the world.
While she figures out her next career move, Cyndi Laurenti works as an online writer and editor. Her primary interests are education, technology, and how to combine them. She enjoys the trees and beaches of the pacific northwest, and looking things up on other people's iPhones.