FEBRUARY 2, 2022
Today the wisdom of the crowd is being harnessed for everything from emotional wellbeing to genetic counseling.
Over a billion people reach their destinations using crowdsourced data apps such as Waze and Moovit – both, by the way, Israeli inventions.
If input from a critical mass of people can help travelers navigate by car or public transportation, it can also help patients and medical professionals navigate health journeys.
Belong.Life launched its first app, “Beating Cancer Together,” in 2015 and is now the world’s largest social network for cancer patients. Belong then developed apps for patients with chronic conditions, including BelongMS and BelongIBD.
Today, more than a million patients, family members and caregivers worldwide use Belong.Life’s free apps for guidance, support and education. The anonymous platform enables discussions of topics including many that Belong.Life members don’t feel comfortable mentioning to their doctor.
Using some 1,500 AI and machine learning algorithms, Belong.Life can extract novel insights from this unusually large cohort to share with researchers across the world.
Belong.Life Medical Director Dr. Daniel Vorobiof, an oncologist, says cancer research and clinical trials are limited to small cohorts and are of limited value. The abundant information mined and analyzed from the apps “help us discover new connections and patterns to gain deeper insights into many neglected aspects of cancer care.”
One study grew out of young breast cancer patients’ discussions regarding sexuality and body image. Another picked up on chats about “financial toxicity” affecting cancer patients and their families.
Yet another study revealed that unvaccinated cancer patients are 21.5 times more at risk of contracting Covid-19 than are vaccinated cancer patients.
Vorobiof says an Israeli cardiologist approached Belong.Life to verify an observation she had made regarding heart arrhythmia in cancer patients using cannabis. “We found a certain percentage, not high, do seek cardiological care because of arrhythmia. The cardiologist presented a paper that was the first study of this specific side effect.”
Although the main objective of Belong.Life hasn’t changed, using its crowd wisdom for research has become a significant outgrowth.
“We can analyze subjective feelings and sentiments of a very large number of patients and caregivers that you could not get easily any other way,” says Vorobiof.