Crowdsourcing - The healthcare way

eHealth, crowdsourcing

When it comes to personal health questions, people can feel more comfortable turning to an internet search engine than a health practitioner. The resulting data can be a gold mine of information, according to Elad Yom-Tov, Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research and visiting scientist at Technion-Israel Institute for Technology.

When his mother was diagnosed with cancer, computer scientist Yom-Tov reacted in the typical modern way – he turned to the internet to seek information about her condition. Thankfully, his mother’s illness was not as severe as originally feared, but the experience sparked an idea in his mind – could doctors learn something useful from the way people research health conditions online?

In his book, Crowdsourced Health, he argues that the digital traces left by searches can improve medicine by revealing insights into health that are difficult to obtain in other ways.

According to Yom-Tov, there are three main ways that internet data, especially search engine data can help doctors and researchers. He told HIMSS Insights: “The first is where people have a hard time reporting the data researchers need, either because people find it awkward to report or because they do not see the connection between the dots.

“An example of this is when people find it difficult to report side-effects that appear months after they begin taking a drug because they don’t associate the adverse reaction with the drug.”

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