Crowdsourcing as a Health Care Redesign Tool

In his March 2 Business Week article, Pushing the Limits of Crowdsourcing, Damien Joseph recounts several successful design projects resulting in the creation of animated features and video games, that utilized a free global design crew consisting of many thousands of contributors via social networking applications. Does this represent an opportunity that should be harvested by health care leaders in order to innovate operational improvements?

Crowdsourcing, the population based harnessing of ideas and skills from many unrelated individuals around the globe, has been used successfully used as a low cost design strategy. Joseph describes the experience of the Mass Animation Project: “From around the world, almost 20,000 people chipped in on a five-minute animated film that features a love story between a guitar and a violin. You could have been one of them. All you needed was a Facebook account and an itch for computer-generated animation.”

Health care redesign, according to the Institute of Medicine, should seek to keep the patient at the center of the health care delivery system. At best, we currently obtain patient perspectives from limited observation, surveys, interviews and focus groups. Wouldn’t it be possible to harvest (for free) the contributions and ideas of tens of thousands of patients and family members from around the world who actually know what it is like at the center? Couldn’t they suggest operational improvement designs, and provide valuable feedback to design concepts? Could this represent a revolutionary approach to achieving lower medication error rates, shorter wait times, preventive care strategies, or innovative appointment scheduling or results reporting systems? Does anyone have experience with this approach? What’s to lose by experimenting? This may be a crowd situation that shouldn’t be avoided.