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Bio & Life Sciences

CrowdMed’s Investors Bank on Crowdsourced Medical Diagnoses

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 8.48.21 AMFans of Dr. Lisa Sanders’s “Diagnosis” column, which invites New York Times readers to guess what’s causing anonymous patients’ mysterious ailments, will love the idea behind CrowdMed, a business that announced its beta launch and $1.1 million in seed funding at TEDMED in Washington last week.

CrowdMed is a crowdsourcing platform that taps the collective wisdom of regular folks to produce diagnostic suggestions for baffling cases. The company’s first test case was founder Jared Heyman’s sister, who had suffered for nearly three years with an undiagnosed disease. The crowd produced an “astonishingly accurate” diagnosis within days.

The Y-Combinator-bred startup, with additional backing from NEA, Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, and SV Angel, says it has “patented a technology that aggregates and distills group intelligence specifically for medical diagnostic purposes.” But what’s even more interesting is its key to quality control: relying on a prediction market in which participants — so-called “Medical Detectives (MD’s)” — back up their own bets with virtual currency.

As MobiHealthNews reports today:

The theory of a prediction market is that when a large enough population bets real or fake money on predictions in a system similar to a stock exchange, their bets will reflect their confidence and, in aggregate, will create a robust predictive model. …“Prediction markets are very good at extracting the right knowledge from the right people,” Heyman told MobiHealthNews. “There’s lots of reasons for this. You can look at prediction markets as a simple voting system. If you feel very confident, you will express that confidence to us by how much you’re willing to bet. They have something to lose by getting it wrong and something to gain by getting it right. By asking people to put their money where their mouth is, we’re really getting a sense of peoples’ confidence.”

CrowdMed tells its website visitors: “As a Medical Detective, you can use your personal experience, intuition, and online research skills to help solve the world’s most difficult medical cases. You can not only win cash, prizes, and status, but also help save lives.”

Heyman told MobiHealthNews that the company’s biggest challenge right now is recruiting enough Medical Detectives to be robust. “Diagnosis” readers, heed the call.

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