CrowdMed: Solving medical puzzles

CrowdMed: helping patients to get closer the right diagnosis.

Launched in 2013, CrowdMed has helped over 2,000 patients get closer to finding the right diagnosis. CrowdMed harnesses the knowledge and experience from over 20,000 doctors, nurses, medical students, scientists, naturopaths and other healthcare aficionados to consult and advise on medical cases. Each case is overseen by a Case Moderator, who is a licensed physician carefully-vetted and interviewed by CrowdMed. Armed with the information collected and aggregated from CrowdMed, the patients can bring multiple opinions gathered to their physician to confirm diagnosis and plan of action. This service is typically valuable to people with complex or rare cases, often helping to lead them closer to a correct diagnosis and treatment.

Patients

CrowdMed allows patients with any medical condition to submit their case to be looked at by multiple medical perspectives at the same time. Patients typically have chronic, complex or rare conditions that they live with every day and have not been solve by their physician. Seeking multiple opinions in parallel helps save on time, medical costs, and unnecessary tests and treatments. Another advantage the CrowdMed platform offers is the ability for experts in their respective fields to consult and collaborate with each other, thereby providing more holistic information to patients. Based on the answers and activity from the community, CrowdMed’s algorithm assigns probability to each diagnosis and solution.

Medical Detectives

CrowdMed uses a combination of points and cash rewards to incentivize their community of medical detectives. After a patient closes a case, he/she will assign points and cash rewards among their best-performing medical detectives. Reputation and ranking for medical detectives are based on their point earnings, and as they accumulate more points, they can work on more complex cases with higher cash rewards. The detectives assign their accumulated points to diagnoses and solution suggestions on patient cases, and CrowdMed uses their proprietary prediction market algorithm to determine confidence levels and probabilities for the suggestions.

Each medical detective also has a “DetectiveRating” on a 1-10 scale, which is a public indicator of reputation on the site. This rating is partially determined by medical credentials / specialty, performance and community participation on the CrowdMed site (for example, verified physicians start at DR6).

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Capturing Value

CrowdMed offers three tiers of service for patients: Standard ($149/month), Premium ($299/month) and Elite ($749/month). These packages include $200, $400, and $1000 compensation packages to be allocated by patients to their most effective medical detectives. Patients may also chose to offer additional compensation to attract more and higher quality case-solvers. The amount of compensation offered is proportional to the attention it will likely receive from the medical detective community. CrowdMed collects 10% of cash compensation offers as commission.

Crowd Management

The acquisition of these medical detectives is key as there is likely a limitation to the amount of time and energy these individuals are willing to contribute to CrowdMed. Monetary incentives are probably not a key motivator for most of these already busy professionals, and the primary factor that CrowdMed is betting on is their willingness to help others solve their medical cases.

CrowdMed encourages patients to take three actions to increase participation: inform (provide more case details, play an active role), share (supplement with own physician and share on social media), and compensate (see Capturing Value above). The minimum case duration is 60 days, which should give the community enough time to investigate and provide sufficient responses. The longer the case is active on the site, the more the medical detective community can participate.

Referrals are also an important part of expanding the crowd on both the patient and medical detective side of the platform. The person who refers either a patient or a medical detective will receive both 5,000 bonus points and a $20 referral bonus. Referred medical detectives will receive 5,000 bonus points and referred patients will receive $10 discount.

Growth Potential

CrowdMed is partnering with insurance companies and employers to be included in coverage for patients. This is beneficial to the growth of the business as it shifts the payment to insurers and thus reduces barriers to entry for patients to submit their case. By encouraging more users and supply of cases, they can hopefully attract more medical detectives to join their platform and share their knowledge, thereby strengthening the platform and community. The growth of this platform will allow for more patients with complex conditions to be diagnosed and to get better.

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8 thoughts on “CrowdMed: Solving medical puzzles

  1. Ophelia, I think this is a super interesting post – thank you for sharing.

    I’m wondering how the numbers work out here. If a patient pays $149/month for a package, which includes $200 to ‘give away’ to medical detectives as compensation, how does CrowdMed make any money? Wouldn’t that individual patient result in a $51 deficit? Perhaps I am missing something, but it seems like the math doesn’t quite work in their favor.

    Also – I wonder a little bit about the choice to do a subscription model with monthly fees as high as $749 – this seems so high! I could see most potential users wanting this for specific incidents, but probably not wanting to pay a monthly membership fee for a service they might not use every single month. I wonder if a lower membership fee, plus a fee-per-case dependent on the case’s complexity, might have made more sense.

    1. Thanks for your comments Sonali!
      With regard to the numbers, the minimum case length CrowdMed requires is 60 days, which means it requires patients to wait at least 2 months to gather sufficient suggestions from the community. The math then works out to CrowdMed’s favour.
      Yes, I agree that the $749/month is a high number. The difference between the packages are mainly the number of expected medical detective participants for their case and the quality of these detectives. I think the reason for a subscription model is to give patients the choice of when to terminate the service. Once they feel like they have gathered enough thoughts from the community, they can close the case which ends their subscription. This way, CrowdMed is not placing their opinions about the complexity of the case — they are allowing the patient and the medical detective community decide that themselves.

  2. Thanks for the post – it was interesting to read! Similar to what Sonali said above, I also found the subscription fee to be high and wonder if they can attract enough customers to subsidize the cost of physicians. Are they targeting chronic disease patients or any specific age group? Besides the question around subscription model, I think this is an interesting initiative that might help reduce healthcare costs in the long run. Do you think partnership with Medicare/Medicaid would be viable?

    1. With regard to the pricing tiers, I don’t have the breakdown between each tier, but if I had to guess, I think they would want more patients in the lower price tiers so that more collaboration and communication happens on the platform (the $749/month subscription only allows the top 1% of medical detectives to fully participate without case moderator approval — aiming to have a gate on quality). I think their service is particularly suited for individual who have sought physicians advice and diagnoses, likely multiple physicians, and still do not have an answer or solution to their situation. Typically complex or rare cases that are chronic and require multiple specialties to work together to solves the problem (current medical environment is not particularly conducive to this). I also agree that this method likely could help reduce healthcare costs in the long run, I hope that they gain traction with Medicare/Medicaid in the future. I think the path to that is proving efficacy of their results — which is challenging as they don’t currently track outcomes from their process — they still recommend patients see their physician after to discuss the solutions generated from CrowdMed before choosing a path forward.

  3. Do you have insight into why the product is priced as an subscription? Seems out of the ordinary to me given this is a one-time occurrence, unless physicians are also buying subscription to get access to a larger community. In which case, does crowdmed compete with industry conferences and the likes? I wonder if there is negative externalities from paying out medical detectives. As you said they are probably not motivated by money and in my opinion certain things should have no price because you just can’t afford them 🙂 taking away detective compensation will reduce the prices charges to subscribers, opening access to this great product.

    1. I believe that CrowdMed designed this as a monthly subscription to allow the patient and the medical community to self-regulate. The length of time a case is active is determined by the patient (opening and closing) — except a 60-day minimum set by CrowdMed. CrowdMed doesn’t opine on how complex a case is, it just allows the community to gather intelligence and the patient to further incentivize the community by increasing cash reward and choosing when to close the case (either when they have enough solutions or if they don’t feel it’s helpful). Although I don’t think the detectives are motivated solely by money, I think there is a certain minimum compensation threshold they need to provide their time. I see the payment mainly as compensating for the physician’s time and energy researching these cases. For a lot of these patients, they have spent tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars going through the medical system with no avail. I think this option just opens up possibilities for them as almost a last chance hope sometimes, which is hard to place a price tag on. For folks that can’t afford the subscription fee, CrowdMed actually does have a fund to help pay for these patients.

  4. Thanks for the great post Ophelia! As was mentioned above, the medical detectives engaged on the platform are clearly not just motivated by the money. And I assume that people using the platform are sharing slightly more unsual medical cases (simple medical diagnostic tools exist online), and so my question is how is crowdmed keeping and growing the medical detectives pool? with busy schedules as so many people to help on the job as is, I feel like I am missing something the incentive here.

  5. Interesting company. I wonder if there is an alternative funding model in which doctors pay for access to the database (rather than patients), so that patients have a lower barrier to entry. With a larger pool of patients on the platform, additional value could be created for doctors to identify future patients in their field of specialization or candidates for research.

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