The practice of "crowdsourcing" offers a new way for physicians to collaborate and seek advice on challenging medical issues, Slate reports.
Crowdsourcing refers to the process of developing a group consensus by pooling ideas from a broad community, often over the Internet.
Physicians can crowdsource by posting a medical question online and seeking input from thousands of medical professionals.
The New England Journal of Medicine hosts a weekly challenge inviting readers to select a diagnosis based on an image posted online. The journal also polls readers for input on challenging treatment questions and compiles responses from nearly 20,000 doctors around the world.
In addition, some medical centers have a group of experts, called a "tumor board," who review cancer cases as a group and send e-mails seeking advice on the most challenging cases.
The federal government and groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics often convene expert panels to consolidate medical knowledge by posting an electronic call for research on a particular topic. So far, such groups have crowdsourced 2,527 issues and produced numerous public reports on diagnostic and treatment guidelines.
Although some individuals seek medical advice and support from online communities such as PatientsLikeMe, nonmedical professionals rarely have access to websites where physicians crowdsource.
However, patients can tap into the collective knowledge developed via crowdsourcing by seeking information from:
- Expert case conferences;
- Internet discussion boards; and
- Published medical guidelines (Sanghavi, Slate, 10/6).