Using the wisdom of the crowd to diagnose medical mysteries

CrowdMed aims to help those who suspect they have a rare disease, perhaps were misdiagnosed, or simply want a second opinion provide the story of their health problem to a community of experts.

CrowdMed aims to help those who suspect they have a rare disease, perhaps were misdiagnosed, or simply want a second opinion provide the story of their health problem to a community of experts. That community, called “Medical Detectives” is made up of medical professionals, researchers, medical students, MPHs, patients and advocates for certain rare diseases, and more.

Healthcare systems around the world are often fragmented. Navigating them in easy times can be challenging, navigating them when you are sick and professionals do not know why can be scary and impossible. CrowdMed seeks to match up patients who want help in 21 countries around the world with medical detectives passionate about finding out the root cause of someone’s medical issues.

CrowdMed charges a fee for patients to post their medical story. The more you pay, the higher the ranking of medical detectives that will see your case. After discussion, brainstorming, follow-up questions, and betting by experts on the root cause, the CrowdMed algorithm provides a list of the top three most likely causes of your health problems. Depending on your payment tier, an expert reviewer may verify and walk through the algorithm’s ranking with you. You can verify the diagnosis with your doctor or an expert in the disease in person once you have this ranking.

CrowdMed Case


Value Capture

CrowdMed charges either per post or per month. This fee varies from a one-time $50 fee to $249/month, with scholarships available for the most needy and urgent cases, and optional additional medical detective incentives. The more you pay, the higher the rating of Medical Detectives that will see your case. Some employers pay for the service for their employees, with terms of these deals undisclosed. Medical detectives have limited virtual points, and use these to suggest and bet on potential causes – incentivizing detectives to focus on a few cases, get them right, get rewarded with more points, and eventually creating a ranking measure. The medical detectives who brainstormed the top three for any one case, or who bet on the top three as the most likely cause, receive an improved ranking, as well as their choice of virtual points to use to work on future cases, cash compensation, or cash donated directly to charity.


Value Creation

CrowdMed provides a way for people to access experts on many diseases they may not be aware of. From the patient’s prospective, either your diagnosis by your current doctors is validated, giving you much needed piece of mind, or you are able to get advice from many medical detectives all at once. From the medical detective’s perspective, CrowdMed is a way to help people in need of your expertise. Perhaps they are not in your insurance network, perhaps they are rural, perhaps they are simply going back and forth between doctors who have never experienced a particular disease. Some patients choose to provide an additional cash incentive for detectives, some detectives choose to accept only virtual points as compensation allowing them to participate in future cases.

There is one other extremely important value creation piece to this model. Since patients post their own cases without personally identifying information, HIPAA compliance is not a concern. Well-meaning doctors could not easily post the full story like patients can, they likely would only be able to post one piece of the puzzle (some of the reasons I believe competitor Figure 1 has limited potential relative to CrowdMed).



The biggest challenge to the model is false positives. CrowdMed has made progress by adding the expert review, however this is not available to all payment tiers. Future partnerships with clinics and practitioners willing to verify the diagnoses in person could address this problem while moving the model from purely crowdsourcing diagnoses to also providing patients rare disease experts, potentially reducing the chance of unnoticed false positives.

Another challenge is medical professionals. If you tell some doctors you paid for a second opinion, you are treated as if you offended a God. If you told those same doctors you paid money to crowdsource a second opinion, you might not be listened to, even if the diagnosis was correct. That is why I believe future growth should come from partnerships with providers and health care systems that support the model, and are happy that some of these rare conditions are finally discoverable beyond a small geographic area near a particular expert. The next step is to partner with providers and health systems.


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