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article imageIs crowdsourcing the future of health care? Special

By KJ Mullins     Oct 16, 2012 in Health
Toronto - In 2006 journalist Jeff Howe coined the term crowdsoucing in an article for Wired magazine. Crowdsourcing systems are used to accomplish a variety of tasks. It is now a standard model in business but could it become the way of healthcare?
That question was tossed around at Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto this afternoon during a Saint Elizabeth Health Care symposium.
Crowdsourcing pioneers Jeff Howe and Rahad Harfoush joined Saint Elizabeth's President and CEO Shirlee Sharkey for "What crowdsourcing can do for health innovation".
For over 100 years Saint Elizabeth has been a leader in Canadian health care. The organization is always looking at bringing the latest innovations to address client, family and health system needs. Their team of over 6,500 staff delivers more than 5 million health care visits a year across Canada.
With a motto of 'putting people first' it's no surprise that St Elizabeth is exploring how crowdsourcing could be one of the waves of the future when it comes to health care.
Shirley Sharkey said that there is a big need to shift thinking in the health care industry. One of those shifts happened today as the symposium used live streaming, Twitter and other social media tools to bring information to those unable to attend in person.
Jeff Howe
Jeff Howe
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With the rise of social media empowering business by asking for answers outside of the box, one of the areas that has lagged behind has been the health field. While there are plenty of websites dedicated to better health within the industry itself ,thinking outside of the box is a fairly new ideal. But that type of thinking has shown promise. As journalist Jeff Howe explained a group of video gamers solved a retroviral protein question in a matter of 3 weeks. That same protein had baffled medical researchers for years. Could the answer to some of medicine's most puzzling questions be investigated by people who have nothing to do with the world of medicine or science?
Today technology has become so advanced that it is easier for almost anyone to become good at using it. Consider sites like Innocentive where a third of questions posed have solutions. Those answers to problems often come from those who are not in the field that the questions come from. In fact it has been found that the further the person is away from the problems the more likely they are in coming up with a solution and that solution comes much quicker than when it's researched from 'inside the box.'
Howe said, "Healthcare has not seen fit to tap the ideas that define crowdsourcing," adding that the idea "changes a business dramatically."
Rahaf Harfoush has become famous for her work with the Obama campaign. That work using digital innovation helped elect the current United States president. Using her skill as a foresight strategist Toronto native Harfoush used social media to build the Obama brand. Today she is involved with Taking IT Global. The non-profit has enabled world’s largest online community of youth to create positive changes in their cities.
Saint Elizabeth is using Social Media to bring more information to their community already with Ask Elizabeth, a free source of information about health support systems. Sharkey knows that there is much more to do though to bring the health care industry into the future.
Rahad Harfoush
Rahad Harfoush
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Those changes could lead to finding cures at a quicker pace or informing the public of how to maximize their health. Sick Kid's Hospital is an example of how crowdsourcing can be used with healthcare. The Toronto children's hospital is building a new research centre where different fields are housed together in one building. Each 'neighbourhood' in research can quickly consult with each other leading to a greater rise of ideas when it comes to research.
The future of most businesses, including healthcare, is thinking outside of the box. New ideas, solutions and questions are coming from those who may not reside in neat little business 'houses' but from different communities. More of the solutions to the world's problems are coming from those who are not in the fields where the questions arise. Questions are being tossed about by the crowd with solutions coming back quicker than ever before. While crowdsourcing is not the only step in modernizing health care it is an important piece to the future, the experts concluded.
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