The term “crowdsourcing” refers to the process of aggregating crowd wisdom to solve a problem. Increasingly, crowdsourcing has been used in the health and medical research fields to potentially create low-cost, community-driven interventions, according to a systematic review published in Infectious Diseases of Poverty.
Researchers searched 7 databases using an algorithm that integrated elements related to crowdsourcing and health. This resulted in data extraction from 183 observational studies and 5 randomized controlled trials. The review of crowdsourced initiatives focused primarily on 3 areas of health and medicine: nonexpert surgical evaluation, out-of-hospital cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and sexual health messages.
Seventeen studies used nonexpert online evaluations to assess surgical skills. Sixteen of the 17 studies involved found that the crowdsourcing approach was efficient and thorough. With regard to sexual health messages, 7 studies focused on initiatives to increase HIV testing, mostly in low- and middle-income countries. Two of these studies reported substantial cost savings compared with a conventional messaging approach. In addition, 4 studies indicated moderate evidence for increased HIV testing. With regard to CPR initiation, 6 studies evaluated out-of-hospital layperson-facilitated CPR in advance of medical care, sometimes via smartphone alert. Review of these studies found evidence to support smartphone app use for increasing out-of-hospital use of CPR, though results on improving response time were mixed. Other studies included in the review used crowdsourcing for the development of artificial intelligence projects, smoking cessation messages, and identification of conditions such as seizures.
Results of the review showed that across the various studies, there was a wide range of evidence supporting the use of crowdsourcing in medicine. Limitations of the review included the variety of crowdsourced interventions and difficulty pooling data, the breadth of search terms to find crowdsourced data, and the fact that most studies were conducted in high-income countries.
Besides providing cost savings and efficiency beyond conventional methods, crowdsourcing may increase public engagement in medical initiatives. The researchers state that more analysis should be done on the subject, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
Wang C, Han L, Stein G, et al. Crowdsourcing in health and medical research: a systematic review. Infect Dis Poverty. 2020;9:8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40249-020-0622-9.