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April 10, 2014

Crowd-Funding Healthcare is a Global Solution

Posted by Ashish Goel (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:24 AM

Crowd-funding Drug Development: Justyna Leja at TEDMEDLive Imperial College 2013 [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edeHvKDOmco]

One of the most exciting developments of the past few years has been the rise of crowd-funding. The basic idea is that if someone has a platform from which to put his business idea on display, there will be enough people around the world who will not only be interested in the idea but willing to contribute money towards the endeavor.

What crowd-funding has demonstrated is the sheer power of the digital consumer. In a bygone era, someone had to convince one or two entities that his idea was worthy of investment. Because of the digital community, individuals can pool their resources and act as their own big banks.

As much as the concept has exciting possibilities in the world of finance, I think it also bodes well for healthcare as well. I recently read about how the traditional way of delivering healthcare to a community - where a patient waits to see a doctor - is somewhat unrealistic in areas of the world where there are just so many physicians to go around. If a doctor is, so to speak, firing on all cylinders and can see 40 patients a day, that doesn't suffice if that area needs more than 10 times that amount of diagnoses per doctor to meet the needs of its people.

Those of us who live in urban areas often take for granted the accessibility of medical care as well. A large swathe of the world's population lives well outside the one-day travel range of medical clinics and hospitals. If a person is ill and has to travel a few days just to see a healthcare provider, think of the costs involved on all ends of this proposition. The World Health Organization estimates that there is a shortage of some 4 million health care workers around the globe. Just connecting patients with a doctor is a challenge, not to mention what happens when the diagnosis actually takes place. It's not always easy for a patient to get access to the appropriate pharmaceuticals, for instance.

So what if the world's healthcare providers could leverage the same kinds of technology that social entrepreneurs are currently using in the banking space? I like to think of it this way: If a patient in a rural area visits a trained nurse who can feed a list of that patient's symptoms into a database, that information, stored on a Cloud, can be accessed by a physician who specializes in whatever the ailment might be. Because you're aligning the patient's likely sickness with the right specialist, the doctor doesn't have to be physically present. In a world where there's a shortage of 4 million medical providers, using digital telecommunications platforms to connect patients to providers is an efficient way of tackling the issue.

Telemedicine is only in its infancy, but as the technology around it advances, it's becoming more of a solution to dealing with the world's healthcare shortage. We're seeing how powerful a crowd can be when it comes to aligning patients with the appropriate caregiver rather than relying on the traditional model of "first come, first serve." But the advantages of crowd-funding in medicine are also apparent when information about a person's health can be fed discretely into a database that keeps track of the global movement of epidemics.

Crowd-funding as preventative medicine? You bet. The more data doctors have at their disposal, the more empowered they are to anticipate what they'll be seeing in the course of a week. Healthcare networks can order the right amount of prescription drugs and have them ready in certain areas when outbreaks occur. And more specialists can be on call if they know that certain illnesses are plaguing particular geographical areas.

When patients around the world use their collective influence, they can help medical providers battle disease and promote good health. What has begun already as so-called "remote care" is in fact morphing into an innovative way of delivering healthcare to millions ... and it's becoming less remote by the day.

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