'Medical detectives' are helping people diagnose tricky conditions online.
True
Facebook

When one mom took to a medical platform called CrowdMed, her son Joseph was in desperate need of help.

"My son feels like an old man," she wrote. "He suffers from constant, debilitating fatigue, painful body aches ... he feels like he's dying."

After submitting his case to the site, more than 40 "medical detectives" — medical experts from around the world — took it on. They came to the consensus that he most likely had Lyme disease, even though that had previously been ruled out by his physicians following negative test results.


The medical detectives had noticed that the tests he had taken were old and known to be inaccurate now with advanced technology. They recommended he take a new test, which confirmed that Lyme disease was the correct diagnosis. He's now on the appropriate treatment plan and feeling way better.

The internet is a wild place like that.

Who would have thought the same tools we use to look at pictures of cute kittens could also help us solve mysterious medical cases?

The internet and social media have not only changed the way friends communicate with each other, but have changed the way doctors and patients communicate, too.

Like other professionals, doctors benefit from sharing insight and expertise with other doctors. But only so much can be learned from attending a conference or reading a medical journal. That's where crowdsourcing medical info has come into play.

Here are five ways doctors (and everyday folks) are using the internet to change the medical world as we know it:

1. Medical detectives are solving difficult medical mysteries on CrowdMed.

Image via CrowdMed.

There are thousands and thousands (and thousands) of medical conditions out there. The odds of one doctor knowing all of them? Well, that'd be ridiculous! And that's exactly why CrowdMed came into existence.

As in the example above, CrowdMed uses crowdsourcing to help solve unique medical cases online. We're not talking your common cold here. We're talking difficult medical conditions that could normally take several years, and a lot of money, to diagnose. With the help of their medical experts, or "detectives," patients are given access to a wide variety of medical expertise in one online platform.

2. No Instagram filter is needed with these photos, but a medical degree can help.


From the emergency room, here's our selected case for #Medstudent Monday. What test should you order urgently for this patient?
A video posted by Figure 1 (@figure1) on



While many people take joy in scrolling through photos of puppies and fancy-looking dinners on Instagram, people in the medical community are actively following photos of medical cases to compare notes. With more than 54,000 followers, the account Figure 1 is perfect for health professionals to view and discuss a variety of medical issues ranging from surgeries to X-rays to burn wounds.

"If I’m able to log on to Instagram or Figure 1 and see a picture of something that I learned about three years ago in medical school that I may see in the future, that’s really helpful for my learning going forward," emergency medicine resident John Corker told Marketplace.


We've selected our case of the week. This device can restore a patient's vision when all other methods fail. Do you know what it is?
A photo posted by Figure 1 (@figure1) on

3. Doctors are using an instant messenger to get their answers super fast.

A "living, breathing, evolving medical knowledge bank," SERMO has become a go-to social network for doctors around the world. Its community of 600,000 members are all verified and credentialed physicians who use the space to brainstorm, ask questions, collaborate, and exchange knowledge and experiences with each other.

And what makes it stand out is that community members can remain anonymous on the network once they've been verified. It creates a safe space for doctors to open up and ask questions they may otherwise avoid asking in a public setting or in their own practice.

"When physicians feel comfortable dialoguing without repercussions, they ask for help, they share knowledge, they admit mistakes — and together advance the universe of medical knowledge," the website reads. Makes sense.

4. What if a doctor needs a second opinion? There are Facebook groups for that.

Image via Facebook.

When Dr. Brian Jacob wanted to stay in touch and share knowledge with other surgeons around the world, he went straight to Facebook. Jacob created a closed group called International Hernia Collaboration and invited some of his surgeon friends to join.

"What began as a few of us collaborating privately about tough cases quickly spread to hundreds of vetted surgeons and industry members from over 40 countries providing each other continuous quality improvement one Facebook post and comment at a time," he wrote in Facebook Stories.

The group, which now has over 2,100 members, has seen successful outcomes thanks to their teamwork. Woo, collaboration! For example, Jacob said in his story:

"One day last year, a patient came to me insisting that he have his hernia fixed as soon as possible. Given his medical history, I suspected it would be best to wait and not operate right away. With the patient’s permission, I decided to reach out to the group for other perspectives. I posted an x-ray image of his hernia and the key information regarding his case, along with my two points: 1) When is it too soon to repair a newly formed hernia? and 2) What technique and product would you use?

Within minutes, other surgeons chimed in with comments, and I felt comforted in teaching hundreds of surgeons across the globe that there was consensus in this decision to postpone the surgery. With the support of the group, I waited a few months before operating, and saved the patient potential injury to his intestines that could occur by operating too soon. I've tracked his progress and, almost a year later, he is still doing very well."

5. Or for the minimal effort approach, let the information come directly to you.

With sites like PediHeartNet, users are able to sign up to be informed on the latest news within their expertise. For instance, PediHeartNet's listserv allows medical professionals to sign up to receive postings of worldwide discussions to their inbox on various aspects of pediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery. That's both important and convenient.

When it comes down to it, the more quality information we have about our health, the better off we all are.

It's great to see medical professionals and everyday people work together to find ways to share their medical knowledge and experiences for the benefit of human good.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

When you picture a ballerina, you may not picture someone who looks like Lizzy Howell. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't.

Howell is busting stereotypes and challenging people's ideas of what a dancer should look like just by being herself and doing her thing in her own body. The now-19-year-old from Delaware has been dancing since she was five and has performed in venues around the world, including Eurovision 2019. She has won scholarships and trains up to four hours a day to perfect her skills in various styles of dance.

Jordan Matter Photography shared a documentary video about Howell on Facebook—part of his "Unstoppable" series—that has inspired thousands. In it, we get to see Howell's impressive moves and clear love of the art form. Howell shares parts of her life story, including the loss of her mother in a car accident when she was little and how she was raised by a supportive aunt who helped her pursue her dance ambitions. She also explained how she's had to deal with hate comments and bullying from people who judge her based on her appearance.

"I don't think it's right for people to judge off of one thing," Howell says in the video. And she's right—her size is just one thing.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

The subject of late-term abortions has been brought up repeatedly during this election season, with President Trump making the outrageous claim that Democrats are in favor of executing babies.

This message grossly misrepresents what late-term abortion actually is, as well as what pro-choice advocates are actually "in favor of." No one is in favor of someone having a specific medical procedure—that would require being involved in someone's individual medical care—but rather they are in favor of keeping the government out of decisions about specific medical procedures.

Pete Buttigieg, who has become a media surrogate for the Biden campaign—and quite an effective one at that—addressed this issue in a Fox News town hall when he was on the campaign trail himself. When Chris Wallace asked him directly about late-term abortions, Buttigieg answered Wallace's questions is the best way possible.

"Do you believe, at any point in pregnancy, whether it's at six weeks or eight weeks or 24 weeks or whenever, that there should be any limit on a woman's right to have an abortion?" Wallace asked.

Keep Reading Show less

Eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are feeling the weight of it growing heavier and heavier. We miss normal life. We miss our friends. We miss travel. We miss not having to mentally measure six feet everywhere we go.

Maybe that's what was on Edmund O'Leary's mind when he tweeted on Friday. Or maybe he had some personal issues or challenges he was dealing with. After all, it's not like people didn't struggle pre-COVID. Now, we just have the added stress of a pandemic on top of our normal mental and emotional upheavals.

Whatever it was, Edmund decided to reach out to Twitter and share what he was feeling.

"I am not ok," he wrote. "Feeling rock bottom. Please take a few seconds to say hello if you see this tweet. Thank you."

O'Leary didn't have a huge Twitter following, but somehow his tweet started getting around quickly. Response after response started flowing in from all over the world, even from some famous folks. Thousands of people seemed to resonate with Edmund's sweet and honest call for help and rallied to send him support and good cheer.

Keep Reading Show less