There is nothing more horrifying in the world than a parent watching their child get sick and die. Unfortunately, it happens for many reasons. Doctors try their best to save lives, and it is terrible for us as well when we are treating very sick patients, especially children. Sometimes, we need help from our peers, but in this day and age, it can be difficult to chase down a colleague for an added opinion. That is when medical crowdsourcing can literally help save a life.
On SERMO (the largest social network exclusive to physicians), the scenario of doctors collaborating to save lives occurs on a daily basis. Doctors are saving lives by crowdsourcing their collective wisdom. In a dramatic case presented recently by a Canadian physician, a little girl’s life was saved by using this resource. Sadly, her brother had died 2 weeks prior due to an aggressive E. Coli 0157:H7 infection. When the little girl started becoming ill with similar symptoms, her treating physician immediately presented her case from Canada to the SERMO community in hopes of preventing her from dying as well.
Within minutes, he started receiving suggestions from doctors all across the globe and from many specialties. Several physicians from the US started recommending diagnostic tests that should be performed. A fellow Canadian physician suggested testing the remaining family members and the drinking water in the home as well. From South Africa, another physician suggested taking a history of all the places that were visited recently to find the source. This little girl lived, and surely the input from this crowdsourcing experience contributed to saving her life. It may even have saved others as well by the recommendations to trace the source of infection to prevent others from falling ill.
Why should you use crowd-sourcing?
♦ It is easy to do. A doctor has access to thousands of doctors at their fingertips. It is much easier to send out a query through online channels than trying to phone a colleague. We have all played phone tag trying to connect with specialists in the past.
♦ You can get many opinions at once. None of us know everything, so the more help we can get, the better. It is often helpful to get different suggestions. Not all doctors do things the same way, and I have learned many pearls through crowdsourcing.
♦ It is open 24/7. Now with the world at our fingertips, the internet is always open. We can log on any time of the day and find someone available.
♦ Some of the leading experts give their advice as well. We all learn from each other.
There are many advantages to medical crowdsourcing. It truly has the potential to save lives all across the world. The days of playing phone tag to try to get a curbside consult are finished. We now have a world full of doctors available with a few keystrokes on our computers and mobile device. Any doctor who has not implemented this tool in their daily practice stands to lose much. Shouldn’t we all be using this?
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Dr. Linda Girgis MD, FAAFP, is a family physician in South River, New Jersey. She holds board certification from the American Board of Family Medicine and is affiliated with St. Peter’s University Hospital and Raritan Bay Hospital. Dr. Girgis earned her medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Sacred Heart Hospital, through Temple University and she was recognized as intern of the year. Over the course of her practice, Dr. Girgis has continued to earn awards and recognition from her peers and a variety of industry bodies, including: Patients’ Choice Award, 2011-2012, Compassionate Doctor Recognition, 2011-2012. Dr. Girgis’ primary goal as a physician remains ensuring that each of her patients receives the highest available standard of medical care.