AMA, medical boards join the Human Diagnosis Project to expand virtual access to specialists

Two prominent medical boards and the American Medical Association are among the seven organizations that have signed on with a project that provides virtual access to medical specialists through user-generated content and machine learning. 

The announcement was made on Thursday by the Human Diagnosis Project, an initiative that combines collective intelligence and natural language processing to construct an online map designed to help physicians diagnose illnesses quicker and connect patients to the appropriate specialists.

The newly formed alliance, officially named the Human Dx Alliance for the Underserved, includes the AMA, the American Board of Internal Medicine, the American Board of Medical Specialties, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved, the National Association of Community Health Centers and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

Currently, the Human Diagnosis Project includes more than 6,000 doctors across 70 countries, but an alliance with some of the country's largest medical groups offers more weight to the initiative and provides an influx of new users. The group plans to focus its efforts on making specialty care more accessible for patients at safety net hospitals that often delay care because of the high out-of-pocket costs associated with seeing a medical specialist.

The Human Diagnosis Project—inspired by open technology efforts like Wikipedia and Linux—wants to address that disconnect through a “single, open and universally accessible system.”

Technology has already played a small role in improving access to specialty care. Recent research shows e-consultations can streamline referrals for underserved populations and improve communication between clinicians and specialists.

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“We intend to help close the specialty care gap by building a nationwide electronic consult (eConsult) service where U.S. safety net physicians can get the information they need from specialists to provide the best care for their patients,” the organization said in a post on Thursday. “A treating doctor simply inputs his or her patient’s background and medical findings into the Human Dx eConsult system, which then invites specialists to review the case and input their recommended tests and diagnosis.” The alliance plans to implement the system in 8,000 safety net clinics with access to 50,000 specialists that serve more than 3 million patients. 

Human Diagnosis Project is also one of eight semifinalists for a $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation. The group plans to use the winnings to fund a nationwide rollout of the system, according to Wired.