Applications of crowdsourcing in health: an overview

Kerri Wazny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Crowdsourcing is a nascent phenomenon that has grown exponentially since it was coined in 2006. It involves a large group of people solving a problem or completing a task for an individual or, more commonly, for an organisation. While the field of crowdsourcing has developed more quickly in information technology, it has great promise in health applications. This review examines uses of crowdsourcing in global health and health, broadly.

Methods: Semantic searches were run in Google Scholar for "crowdsourcing," "crowdsourcing and health," and similar terms. 996 articles were retrieved and all abstracts were scanned. 285 articles related to health. This review provides a narrative overview of the articles identified.

Results: Eight areas where crowdsourcing has been used in health were identified: diagnosis; surveillance; nutrition; public health and environment; education; genetics; psychology; and, general medicine/other. Many studies reported crowdsourcing being used in a diagnostic or surveillance capacity. Crowdsourcing has been widely used across medical disciplines; however, it is important for future work using crowdsourcing to consider the appropriateness of the crowd being used to ensure the crowd is capable and has the adequate knowledge for the task at hand. Gamification of tasks seems to improve accuracy; other innovative methods of analysis including introducing thresholds and measures of trustworthiness should be considered.

Conclusion: Crowdsourcing is a new field that has been widely used and is innovative and adaptable. With the exception of surveillance applications that are used in emergency and disaster situations, most uses of crowdsourcing have only been used as pilots. These exceptions demonstrate that it is possible to take crowdsourcing applications to scale. Crowdsourcing has the potential to provide more accessible health care to more communities and individuals rapidly and to lower costs of care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)010502
JournalJournal of Global Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2018


  • Journal Article


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