Y Combinator-backed startup CrowdMed hopes to use the wisdom of the crowds to speed up and lower the cost of diagnosing rare medical conditions. By crowdsourcing medical data and applying some patented predictive technology, the company believes it can help users identify illnesses that had otherwise baffled medical professionals.
CrowdMed is designed to help users who have been unable to get help within the current health system. Because doctors can’t always track the thousands of rare diseases that are out there, patients may find themselves going to dozens of physicians and specialists and still not know what is wrong with them. Rather than continue to spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on tests and hospital visits, CrowdMed provides an alternative path to uncovering rare illnesses.
Users anonymously submit information about undiagnosed conditions on CrowdMed, providing details such as their symptoms, health history, family background and any tests they’ve already taken. The platform then allows a team of “medical detectives” to collaborate on the case, using their own personal history and knowledge, as well as online research to diagnose the illness. By aggregating their answers and using a patented, prediction technology, CrowdMed provides its own suggestions. In its private beta phase, 20 difficult real-life cases were solved using the platform, with some of those patients having already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to no avail.
While the platform isn’t designed to serve as a replacement for highly trained medical professionals, CrowdMed is there to provide help in the case of rare illnesses that are easily missed or to provide a “second opinion” for patients who aren’t sure of a doctor’s diagnosis. Mostly it’s there to help narrow down the realm of possibilities and provide suggestions for their physicians to consider.
The company was founded by Jared Heyman, who had previously built the Internet survey company Infosurv. After his sister spent three years with a rare, undiagnosed illness, he realized that the same kind of predictive survey technology could be used to help those who are sick figure out what they are suffering from. Heyman was joined by lead developer Axel Setyanto, who had previously worked at Loku, and lead designer Jessica Greenwalt, who had previously founded graphic design firm Pixelkeet. The startup is being advised by former WebMd exec Clare Martorana, who had been general manager at the company.
CrowdMed was one of the 46 companies to participate in the Y Combinator Winter 2013 class, and is announcing its public beta launch at TEDMED 2013 in Washington, D.C., today. The company has raised $1.1 million in seed funding from investors that include NEA, Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, Y Combinator, and SV Angel.