People Powered Healthcare: Healthcare Policy Drafted Through Crowdsourcing

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Healthcare products are being improved through Internet driven crowdsourcing., an online forum for Sleep Apnea patients tests a new way of improving products: User driven product testing.

The healthcare sector is under pressure to cut costs and extend care. Crowdsourcing may be a great way to do both. 'Crowdsourcing is a distributed product and problem solving model made possible by the Internet. Problems are broadcast to an unknown group of solvers in the form of an open call for solutions.

Users-- also known as the crowd-- typically form into online communities, and then submit solutions'. This definition was provided by Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit and perhaps the best known example of a Crowdsourced project. Now other businesses are getting into the act and applying the Wikipedia effect to their niche.

One such early adopter is CPAPtalk, an online forum for CPAP users that is attempting to improve product quality for its members through crowdsourcing head-to-head product trials. is a free online forum for sleep apnea patients established to remedy the lack of patient voice within the Sleep Industry. Today 40,000 registered users log-on to discuss the trials and triumphs of their treatment. They also exchange tips, tricks, reviews and advice on the CPAP products they use nightly. Historically, the information they provided about the quality of their products sadly remained an untapped resource for sleep industry engineers. To aggregate and spotlight this important information, now conducts regular head to head, user voted contests they call Product Challenges. Product Challenges are Crowdsourcing for Healthcare. Patients are asked to compare and outline problems with each product. Their answers are broadcast to other patients, sleep doctors and to manufacturers. The end result is engaged patients banding together to provide manufacturers with insight they can use to improve the quality of CPAP equipment for all. When crowdsourcing is utilized in healthcare, both the patients and the industry benefit.

Crowdsourcing is proving to be an effective tool for recognizing the problems within healthcare. The question 'Tell me where it hurts' can now be answered with a resounding voice, 40,000 patients strong. By listening to the crowd, organizations gain first hand insight on patient/customer desires. Patient feedback offers rich data for product and policy research. More importantly, patients feel part of a community and gain a sense of earned responsibility through their contribution and collaboration. Like this community, other sites can provide willing and ready ranks to join the efforts in resolving patient dissonance.

For more information on Crowdsourcing, sleep apnea, or Product Challenges, please contact Katherine Fulmer, Product Development Analyst for


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Katherine Fulmer
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