How Medical Doctors and Health Researchers Are Leveraging Social Media, Crowdsourcing and Communication Technology to Benefit Patients and Find Cures in Real-Time
by Dr. Craig Fleisher
Every one of us knows someone who shows unusual symptoms; a neighbor or friend who is afflicted in ways that traditional diagnoses done within medical establishments just cannot resolve. It just may be that we are the person experiencing these conditions! For decades, we have relied on our hospitals, and the talented medical specialists within them, to identify the maladies and to initiate interventions that would return us to good health. We have also relied upon university researchers to study the data over many years with the hope that they could eventually resolve the problem. But in recent years, we have seen a window of opportunity open wide that might enable those medical specialists and research institutions to cast a much wider net, to probe beyond their current competencies and conventions, and to empower data-driven diagnoses at a level magnified far beyond what the current conditions permit.
Two new groundbreaking television series have come out in 2019 that show the power of a new approach to health and medical research that already evidences much promise and has delivered some impressive results. Diagnosis (on Netflix) and Chasing the Cure (shown on TNT) are outstanding examples of this new model. Both are television series that shows how some doctors, or their medical institutions are using television and social media to augment their competencies to help them uncover new options and cures for some of their most difficult to heal patients.
Diagnosis is a documentary web television series comprising 7 initial episodes released for viewing in August 2019. This docuseries series follows Dr. Lisa Sanders, a New York-based physician who was prior to this series best known for a column she had been writing in The New York Times Magazine for a decade and a half. What makes the show so interesting, and promising as a way forward for health research, is that it applies methods drawn from crowdsourcing to help the physician diagnose the ailments; uses tried-and-true intelligence methods to generate new and better questions; reaches out to individuals who have had potential experiences with these symptoms; spreads information out about rare, unusual or emerging health concerns to a broader swath of the public; and generates more and better treatment options that could potentially cure the issues faced by these otherwise very “difficult” to treat patients.
On the live broadcast TNT series Chasing the Cure moderated by well-known news commentator Ann Curry, a panel of doctors, chief medical consultant, psychologist, lawyer and a global audience are drawn together in real-time to work together on a global digital platform. Individuals suffering from undiagnosed, misdiagnosed or uncured medical mysteries volunteer to allow their cases to be aired, with the hope that the panel and they themselves will gain answers to their difficult questions and regain good health. In order to access the largest possible audience and basis of data/information, the series created several dedicated pages on Facebook and Twitter, as well as a dedicated website (ChasingTheCureLive.com). Users can even submit their cases, experiences, case histories, etc. in a moderated community of health and medical detectives, which is also supported by the generation of real-time analytics to survey the audience and to calculate “scores” on the nature of the diagnoses, options or potential remedies that might be employed.
Combined with increasingly sophisticated electronic health records, virtual medicine upgrades, improvements in privacy protection, and enhanced analytics, these efforts point the compass to new and powerful ways to conduct health and medical research that leverage advances within the SMAC convergence (i.e. the acronym for applying social, mobile, analytics, and cloud technologies to particular use cases).
Efforts like Diagnosis and Chasing the Cure demonstrate how the internet permits research to accelerate data and information acquisition in far more personalized and customized ways that health and medical researchers can leverage. Researchers now have easier access to global crowd- and open sources such as social media, thus allowing them to apply big data approaches for their analyses. It can facilitate the surfacing of critical outliers in data or “samples of 1” that used to escape their grasp – where a single individual’s DNA, context or experience may actually hold the key to solving vexing research questions. It also allows them to use sophisticated analytics to boost their confidence in their findings to higher levels than were previously achievable. The promise of these real-time research efforts is “off the charts,” and the basis for their effectiveness is often found “outside the hospital.” For researchers and their institutions who need to make a dramatic breakthrough in their research results, these new means may provide an accessible and quickly implemented option to enable them to produce results faster and more effectively than through more efficient applications of conventional or traditional research approaches.
Dr. Craig S. Fleisher is the Chief Learning Officer of the intelligence advisory firm Aurora WDC out of Madison, WI. A former 2x endowed university research leadership chair (Windsor) and full professor at four universities, he is best known for his research into applied research and problem-solving fields. Google Scholar’s top- or second cited researcher globally in the fields of information practices, intelligence analysis, strategic foresight, and strategic thinking, he has authored over 180 scholarly publications including 14 books on these topics.
He will be delivering the keynote speech at the 2019 Santé Awards and Research Showcase on November 21 at the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina on breakthroughs to health research that emanate from demonstrated approaches being used in allied fields such as foresight, information practices, and intelligence. Come hear him describe how their convergence along with new technology breakthroughs have the promise of moving health research forward in dramatic and highly beneficial ways.