By Gofire Staff

Amazon and Yelp reviews have revolutionized the way we make purchasing decisions, but crowdsourcing and our technology-enhanced capacity to tap into the wisdom of many minds are changing our approach to health as well.

While the term is new, crowdsourcing is an old concept. Humans have always tapped into the power of community to solve problems and redeploy resources. Wikipedia and Quora are great modern examples of crowdsourcing knowledge, but even old ideas such as trial by a jury of peers—rather than by a judge with expertise in the law—show that, in some cases, we trust a diverse group to make better decisions than a single expert would make.

In the internet age, we rely on crowdsourced wisdom daily. When you ask your Facebook network to recommend a doctor or check Amazon’s review section before buying that bestseller, you’re relying on the wisdom of the community to help you make your choices.

But crowdsourcing isn’t confined to social media and online retailers: It is also affecting our health care system from the perspective of patients and providers. A study published in the Journal of Global Health concludes that crowdsourcing is having a positive effect on health care: “The use of crowdsourcing, which allows access to a large pool of participants as well as saving time in data collection, lowering costs and speeding up innovations, is increasing in health promotion, research and care.”

Also, an article in Fortune argues that “online services like ZocDoc, Healthgrades and Yelp are democratizing healthcare information, making it easier for consumers to find and understand information about physicians and hospitals.”

Some skeptics doubt that group feedback provided by ordinary patients could be as valuable as in-depth research from health experts.

But Rebecca Simmons, deputy director at the Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute in the United Kingdom, argues in The British Medical Journal that crowdsourcing is key to improving health care: “Crowdsourcing and citizen science have a huge potential to boost health care improvement research. … [P]atients play an essential role in building the evidence base to improve healthcare quality and safety.”

Simmons also points out that the biggest advantage of crowdsourcing is the ability to collect data on a much greater scale, as well as the fact that “a large crowd has the capacity to complete research tasks more efficiently than a small team of researchers.”

These concepts of crowdsourcing, big data and citizen science are integral to the Gofire App.

At Gofire, we’ve designed our health app to essentially crowdsource the search for effective plant medicine.

For example, say you’re looking for a plant-based product to help you sleep. You’re not alone in this quest.

When members of the Gofire community use our health app to track their dosages and experiences, they’re also rating products based on how well they work for a particular health goal—such as pain relief; reduced stress and anxiety; relaxation or a good night’s rest; and others.  

These individual product ratings are compiled into a community science database of anonymous feedback that offers guidance on the best plant-based medicines for various conditions and desired outcomes, and where to find these products in your area.

In the era of crowdsourcing, we’re glad technology allows us to channel the community’s wisdom in the service of better health, education and wellness.