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Open innovation in medicine

03.19.2014
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Healthcare has taken to open innovation perhaps more than any other industry, with a host of sites and projects emerging to bring the crowd into the medical process.  For instance, a site called CrowdMed are aiming to crowdsource medical diagnosis.  It takes the form of a prediction market whereby community members are invited to place bets on the correct diagnosis from a range of suggestions.  The success or otherwise of these suggestions go into building up the profile of participants, with their reputation growing (or falling) as a result.

There are also attempts to use the crowd to source ideas and insights in medical research.  Harvard Catalyst used crowds extensively throughout its research into diabetes, whilst sites such as WellSpringboard and Innopinion are looking to open up the innovation process in healthcare, either to a wider pool of healthcare professionals, or even wider to anyone with an interest in the topic.

One of the more interesting sites in this field is CreateHealth.io, a site that takes a challenge led approach to solving some of the issues facing both healthcare and life science industries.  Usage is split into two broad groups.  On the one hand you have traditional open innovation challenges, whereby companies set up a competition, offer a bounty, and people then go about solving that problem in the best way possible.

The flipside is more community led, whereby patients can create their own challenges.  These typically consist of that person simply asking for feedback from the community on better ways of doing things.  There isn’t any financial reward for these solutions, but the best of them are showcased on the site.

The site hopes that eventually the venture will act as a key mechanism through which the life science industry can engage with patients without violating any FDA regulations.

“One of the biggest drivers for people to participate in clinical trials is to improve science,” said partnerships manager Theo Fellgett recently. By emphasizing transparency, it hopes to create a social network of healthcare ‘microexperts’ who can solve healthcare challenges for life science companies.

Of course, this isn’t the only site looking to crowdsource the trials process.  Last year, the Platform for Engaging Everyone Responsibly (PEER) launched to allow individuals to share their health information using a comprehensive dashboard.  PEER engages with participants by asking them to complete a gamified survey that gives them real time information against other users on the site.

This information will then be used to improve the clinical trials process, both in terms of cost and efficiency.  While the rest of the developed world recruits individuals for various endeavours through customized and engaging online tools, biomedical research still tries to enroll individuals as it has for decades: leaning on clinicians who have limited time, posting ads on buses and in subways, even newspapers.

The aim is to ensure that the right clinical trial is directed at the specific person that requires it, rather than relying on chance to match up the respective parties. What’s more, it also ensures that any data generated from the trials is shared with other researchers, thus removing the proprietary silos that often form around research efforts.

So CreateHealth.io is in interesting company.  With a number of different approaches being taken, the hope has to be that some of them will begin to deliver substantial results, in an industry in dire need of it.  With costs and expectations rising rapidly in healthcare, the time for innovation is surely upon us.

You can see an overview of CreateHealth.io via the video below.



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