Crowdsourcing and Improving Cancer Care

Published Feb-17-15

Innovative app to help cancer survivors better manage the transition from specialty care to primary care.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the National Cancer Institute, United States

The Story:

Crowdsourcing and Improving Cancer Care For obvious reasons, we all have a vested interest in healthcare innovations, and one of the many benefits of open innovation is that it has created opportunities for the crowd to contribute. Brilliant ideas can come from anywhere and open innovation healthcare challenges are receiving contributions from members of the public who might not otherwise have had a platform for their novel ideas.

Cancer Care Challenge

The Crowds for Cancer Care Challenge was an open innovation contest that asked developers to create new tools to help cancer survivors better manage their care once they have completed treatment.

With the rise in the aging population in the United States, the number of cancer survivors is also expected to go up. Despite many brilliant advances in cancer treatment, long-term survivors may still experience problems, and these can best be dealt with by coordinated follow-up care. However, the fragmented nature of care sometimes works against patients and indeed may cause them harm.

Challenge Criteria

Among the challenge criteria participants had to address, were:

• Customizing the management of survivor care
• Improving follow-up care needs such as medication tracking and adherence to
medical regimes
• Improving communication across survivor networks

The submissions also had to take into account that individual patient’s care needs will change over time.

The challenge consisted of two phases. The first phase witnessed the selection of three finalists who each received $5,000, feedback and further support to optimize their innovation. They then embarked on a 30-day crowdfunding campaign on MedStartr. Phase II, saw the finalists submit a functioning application.

Winning App

The overall winner was Medable for its ‘Together’ submission, picking up a check for $25,000. This is an iPhone app that provides patients with a secure platform for collaborative care, where they can chat about their care with numerous providers such as their physician, and get their questions answered. The app can also integrate with wearable sensor data such as home blood pressure monitors and store this data as well as other medical records in a secure cloud.

‘Together’ has been designed to make patient-provider communication a lot easier and improve care planning and treatment consultations. It can be used from diagnosis to completion of successful treatment and beyond.

The Genius of Others

To answer challenging healthcare problems, the crowd is fast becoming a valuable partner. People all round the world are being tapped for their smarts and creativity to solve longstanding and emerging health problems, whether it is for the management of diseases, cures or to help crack genetic codes.

Among the numerous success stories are the University of Washington's public facing effort to map the structure of an AIDS-related virus that had vexed academics for more than 15 years. Then there is the contest organised by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke that saw the development of a new computer algorithm to detect and help prevent epileptic seizures.

The more success stories that emerge, the more the medical community and pharmaceutical companies will see how they can benefit from the genius of others.

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