Grey's Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey announced this week that he has invested in CrowdMed, a crowdsourcing health website that helps solve hard-to-diagnose medical cases. His contribution is part of $2.4 million round of funding that also includes NEA, Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures, and SV Angel.
How CrowdMed Works
The average CrowdMed user has been ill for about six years, has seen up to eight doctors in an effort to solve his or her medical mystery, and, in so doing, has incurred close to $55,000 in medical expenses.
On the website, patients can anonymously post details about their medical issues—anything from information on their symptoms to results of diagnostic tests. The company then shares the information with its community of "Medical Detectives." These detectives are not just physicians; they can be fellow patients, medical school students, or alternative health care providers.
It’s free to post a case, but users may be able to boost the amount of feedback they receive by offering a cash incentive. (CrowdMed takes a small portion of rewards as commission.)
Through its patented technology, the site then aggregates information from the detectives, who bet on a diagnosis. A patient can then view their results based on a consensus and present that information to their doctors.
McDreamy Draws a Crowd
Dempsey, who plays Dr. Derek Shepherd (also known as "McDreamy") on Grey's Anatomy, said he was immediately impressed with CrowdMed upon visiting their headquarters.
“The future really lies in Palo Alto and San Francisco and those areas,” he said in an interview with Healthline.
Dempsey was looking to expand the foundation and reach of the Patrick Dempsey Cancer Center for Hope & Healing. He opened the center in Maine with his siblings in honor of his mother, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer this past March. He said he also wanted to use his celebrity status to make a genuine contribution in the world.
“CrowdMed was designed to help people in need who have nowhere to turn, no options, and no answers, which is the same reason I founded The Patrick Dempsey Cancer Center for Hope & Healing,” Dempsey said.
He traveled to CrowdMed's headquarters on a fact-finding mission and knew that the company was a good fit upon meeting with the team, including Jared Heyman, the founder and CEO of CrowdMed.
Dempsey said, “When we got into the room together, I really loved the story and how this evolved... it just really felt like it made a lot of sense. I really like the crowdsourcing idea and how to get everyone to participate in a cause that’s greater than oneself.”
Dempsey said he is looking forward to seeing his investment expand the company and its reach.
The Future of CrowdMed
Almost one in 10 Americans—and 350 million people worldwide—is affected by approximately 7,000 different types of rare or difficult-to-diagnose medical conditions.
Though the website originally catered specifically to those who have visited numerous doctors and accrued thousands of dollars in medical bills trying to find answers, it will soon appeal to anyone.
Heyman said the company would be adding a solutions-centered feature that will let anyone diagnosed with a condition find information on taking the next steps. It is also working this year on a mobile-optimized version of the website.
On the horizon, the company is considering partnerships with insurance companies. This would enable patients to receive cost-effective medical advice while also driving down costs for insurance providers, Heyman said.
What’s Next in Health Crowdsourcing
Dempsey is pleased to continue to give back to others, and believes that CrowdMed will be a valuable source to people—especially those that don’t have access to top doctors.
“It gives someone who has no hope at least a chance of hope,” Dempsey said.
Heyman is excited about the partnership because of Dempsey's ability to garner recognition for the site. Their association, however, goes beyond simply bringing awareness to the website from fans of the veteran actor.
“Patrick really impressed me from the start,” said Heyman, whose sister faced a diagnostic struggle for years and was an inspiration for starting the company. “He showed a lot of passion for our mission… genuine interest in what we’re doing and why.”
“He was attracted to my passion, my personal reasons for doing this… and I’m equally as impressed with his personal reasons,” Heyman said, citing what Dempsey struggled through during his mother’s years-long battle with ovarian cancer.
It’s that personal experience that makes Dempsey an ideal partner for CrowdMed.
“He knows what it’s like to feel that kind of helplessness,” Heyman said.