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Using Crowd Wisdom to Significantly Cut Healthcare Costs

Healthcare is costly, but it’s no easy task trying to reduce costs without compromising care. One answer might be found in the wisdom of the crowd, or in crowdsourced medical diagnosis which is already helping doctors, patients and healthcare providers more quickly identify many conditions that would otherwise take months or years to figure out.

Just the facts:

Annual healthcare spending in the United States is closing in on $3.8 trillion dollars this year, or nearly 18% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) [1,2]. While the per capita cost of healthcare is currently estimated above $9,000, actual individual costs vary greatly. Roughly 17% of Americans likely didn’t even see a doctor last year [3], and most other Americans only needed to spend up to a few hundred dollars during the same period.

At the same time, a number of patients with urgent care issues, multiple chronic conditions (MCC), rare or difficult-to-diagnose conditions, or other health problems requiring long-term care incurred far greater healthcare expenses. Nearly half of all healthcare dollars were spent by just 5% of the population with more severe or chronic conditions. Individual costs for this group can range from $50,000 to more than $100,000 [4].

There has to be a better way to reduce healthcare costs.

The largest portion of healthcare costs today are related to medical providers themselves (salaries, benefits, etc). These costs have been among the first to get cut, which has resulted in much of the industry already operating with fewer employees. There is also a shortage of doctors in America, leaving those in the field today so over-worked that they already spend less than 15 minutes on each patient consultation [5]. Further cuts to staff and time spent with patients would likely only diminish the quality of care, and could allow more patients’ conditions to become more severe.

Based on the data, it would seem better to focus cost-saving efforts on prevention, improved detection, and diagnosing complicated conditions sooner, in order to reduce the overall number of patients whose medical conditions become more severe (and more costly). Helping those most at risk, to avoid developing more chronic and severe conditions, seems a better path to reducing healthcare costs.

Welcome, healthcare innovations.

We are seeing a new era of innovation in healthcare today, offering potentially significant cost savings to individuals, employers, and the U.S. healthcare system as a whole – particularly around multiple chronic conditions (MCC), and rare or difficult-to-diagnose medical cases. Global collaboration, “crowdsourcing” and supporting technologies are being used increasingly today to address a variety of needs ranging from professional and consumer services to solving complex scientific and medical problems.

We’re fascinated as well by other developments in technology, virtual consultations with physicians, digital medical records, faster methods to analyze greater volumes of data and enabling healthcare providers to more easily identify individuals for whom quality and consistent treatment can significantly affect both outcomes and cost. Innovations in healthcare, focused on efficiency and accuracy, have significant potential to reduce costs while improving care.

Vox Populi, crowd wisdom, and power in numbers.

The world is discovering there is power in numbers and wisdom in crowds – all working together to enable business, media and information services, healthcare, science, research and numerous other important areas.

Today, individuals and organizations may instantly access an interconnected world of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of contributors and experts, to solve even the most complex problems in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional processes.

CrowdMed is a new company in the healthcare space, using global collaboration among thousands of experts in medicine, healthcare and research to more quickly identify and offer diagnostic suggestions to patients suffering from any number of difficult-to-diagnose medical conditions and rare diseases – often with significant savings in time and cost.

So, how much is “significant” healthcare savings?

Data provided by CrowdMed customers indicate the healthcare costs related to the diagnosis of their medical condition averaged $60,000 before they came to CrowdMed for help. These expenses were often incurred over several months or years of failed diagnoses – numerous specialist consultations and tests conducted with no clear result for the patient.

If patients had submitted their case on CrowdMed earlier in their diagnostic process, it is estimated up to 90% of this cost could have been avoided – saving tens of thousands of dollars per case.

On a macro level, if CrowdMed could reduce healthcare costs by even a fraction of the above amount, for the 5% of the US population that incurs over half of the nation’s healthcare expenses, total savings to the system would add up to hundreds of billions of dollars.

Crowdsourcing, applied to healthcare and medical diagnosis, is yielding amazing results and significant cost savings, right now.

Patients who had been suffering for months or years from conditions their doctors simply could not identify, are now receiving crowdsourced diagnostic suggestions from a world of experts in medicine, research and healthcare – often within days.

While it is difficult to calculate from existing data how many patients might be helped by crowdsourced healthcare services like CrowdMed, or overall savings that may be realized nationwide, up to 350 million people in the world today suffer from rare or difficult-to-diagnose medical conditions – with tens of millions in the U.S. alone. If even a fraction of those people suffering today from medical mysteries and complicated symptoms could be helped to diagnose their medical conditions in a fraction of the time, we believe the overall savings and benefit to healthcare on a national or global scale would be incredible.

Improving healthcare, helping people, and saving lives.

CrowdMed is part of a new wave of innovation taking place in healthcare today, not only helping people to become more empowered over their own health, but also helping to save lives.

We would be very pleased (but not really surprised) to find these efforts in crowdsourced medical diagnosis helping reduce national healthcare spending by tens of billions of dollars, or more, while improving overall health and patient outcomes.

As always, we’d love to hear from you – let us know if we can help in any way. You can submit your own medical case to CrowdMed for review, or join the crowd of Medical Detectives which already includes thousands of experts in medicine and healthcare, or find out more about the new CrowdMed Partner Program which helps organizations and companies reduce their overall healthcare costs.

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3. Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2011.