Ever since WebMD debuted, people have been running to the internet for medical advice. Thanks to a few reputable medical sites, the public is only a few clicks away from the causes, symptoms, tests, and treatment options for just about any malady. It was only a matter of time before cell phone applications began to leave their mark on world of online medicine. Mobile health, as the trend is called, has transformed the cell phone into a tool as synonymous with medicine as the stethoscope. Cell phones apps are now being used to manage diabetes, monitor polio, and educate pregnant women about prenatal care.
Recently, though, cell phone application designers have been using crowdsourcing to improve the effectiveness of online medicine. In 2009, Children’s Hospital in Boston launched the crowdsourced cell phone app MedWatcher, which enabled patients to track the latest FDA safety updates related to their medication. MedWatcher not only gave users access to FDA databases, but also made it easier for patients and clinicians to report adverse effects caused by prescription drugs. According to HealthcareIT News, concerns about a drug’s safety are traditionally under-reported because of the time it takes clinicians to make such reports. Clark Freifeld, who co-led the app’s development, hoped MedWatcher would, “prompt increased participation in surveillance, empowering people to participate in the public health process but also potentially allowing us to crowdsource problem drugs which will lead to better understandings of side effects of medicines, and possibly even bring about earlier detection and prevention.”
Last month, mobile health made a giant leap forward when a cell phone app turned crowdsourcing into a real-time lifesaving technology. Launched by the San Ramon Valley Fire Department, the app alerts community members trained in CPR as soon as a cardiac arrest has been reported to 911. Capitalizing on the iPhone’s GPS, citizen responders are notified of the location of the emergency and the nearest defibrillators. According to Mary Beth Michos, Deputy Associate Director of the Intl. Association of Fire Chiefs, the sooner someone in cardiac arrest receives CPR and defibrillation, the less damage is done.
As more and more people upgrade to internet-capable cell phones, the potential benefits of mobile crowdsourcing increase. In what ways could mobile crowdsourcing improve healthcare? How could crowdsourcing via cell phone make data collection more efficient, accurate or cost effective?