Want A Diagnosis For Your Mysterious Medical Condition? Ask The Crowd

There are a lot of smart people in the world, and now you have the ability to reach them all. People are increasingly throwing their medical problems to the crowd. Can Facebook do what doctors can’t?

Want A Diagnosis For Your Mysterious Medical Condition? Ask The Crowd

Crowdsourcing is quickly becoming a popular way to solve problems–even DARPA, home of the U.S. military’s most futuristic projects, is crowdsourcing new ideas. But until recently, certain things–like medical diagnoses–were generally left to professionals.


Take the case of Simon Turkalj and his wife (he requests that she remain anonymous). About two years ago, Turkalj’s wife was in her third trimester of her third pregnancy. After delivering the baby, Mrs. Turkalj began experiencing seizures. They would disappear periodically, only to return later. The seizures are still happening today. The Turkalj’s have sought help from a number of doctors, including a team at Stanford, to no avail. No one seems to know why Mrs. Turkalj, a physician herself, keeps getting seizures.

“To have a seizure, it blunts your intellect. At this point, there is no way she can go back to being a physician,” says Turkalj.

Instead of letting his wife languish while doctors ponder what to do, Turkalj is presenting the problem to the Internet at large. He recently created up a Facebook page, dubbed Mom’s Medical Mystery, with links to all the relevant facts: all of the relevant medical records; a Wiki with symptoms, confirmed and suspected conditions, and ruled out conditions; and progress updates. “I’m throwing down all my cards on this one,” says Turkalj.

The Mom’s Medical Mystery page has picked up 362 likes since its launch on June 26. There are however, just 15 members on the wiki.

This isn’t the first attempt to crowdsource a medical diagnosis via the Internet. Patients do it all the time on medical message boards. A doctor made headlines two years ago when he crowdsourced a diagnosis on Twitter. And UCLA researchers have created a game to crowdsource malaria diagnoses.

We’ll be watching to see if anyone figures out the Turkalj’s medical mystery.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.