Crowd-funding Medical Websites

The last few years has seen a remarkable turnaround in the independent arts scene. Crowd-funding. Till recently many a musician or performer would work tirelessly for little more than the chance to perform, to gain exposure to the public eye. If they were VERY lucky they would catch the eye of an agent for one of the ‘establishment’ publishers and be offered a contract. These contracts were usually full of promise and whist offering some income the profits of the agent or publisher were far more substantial and guaranteed. There are lessons here for the funding of small medical projects such as web sites, videos and perhaps even patient support services.

Crowd-funding is simple at heart. A performer performs, the audience pays. If the performer performs well, then he is paid more. If his performance is a dud, then likely he goes home broke. Such is the life of a street busker.

Kickstarter is a way for members of the public to fund a creative project. It has been around for a while and though initially projects had to be funded via a USA bank account this restriction is gradually being lifted. Kickstarter is fully available for projects based in Australia. In essence a project is proposed and members of the public invited to pledge funds. A funding target is set and if surpassed then the funds become available to be used by the project proposer. If the target is NOT met then no funds change hands. Projects usually offer incentives for those who pledge more money, and in the case of projects resulting in a physical product often one of the incentive rewards is the product itself.

Translating to the medical arena this is akin to a project grant proposal being awarded with a guaranteed budget and on condition of supplying a specified service. If a project achieves funding but then fails to deliver then the money is lost. If looked on as an investment by project backers then this is a high risk investment. However as an enabling grant many many businesses have a Kickstarter project to thank for their initial momentum.

 

A problem with Kickkstarter is that if a realistic budget is set but that funding level not achieved then the project is dead in the water. NO funds are made available. What if the project met say 50% of its budget? Often in that situation significant work could be done, often work which enhances the chance of further funding becoming available. Enter Indiegogo

Many of the concepts of Indiegogo are the same as Kickstarter except for the funding Goal. When a supporter pledges money towards the project then that money is transferred into the project account immediately. So it is possible a project becomes partially funded, still better than not funded at all. All services charge fees taken as a percentage of the funds pledged and Indiegogo has different rates depending on whether the funding target has been met.

 

Another variation on the crowd funding model is Patreon. Patreon is designed more for episodic delivery of a service, often a work of art. Take for example an internet TV show. Users might pledge $1 for each episode that is broadcast (up to a user defined limit). This is an interesting model in that whilst it does not provide a startup lump sum it does provide an ongoing income. Often a precious commodity in service delivery.

Crowd-funded Medical & Patient Services

Primary Medical and Surgical services I suspect will always require funding directly or indirectly via taxation services or insurance.

There are however a growing number of services that can be delivered via the internet, websites, podcasts, forums and groups for example, where there are clear benefit to patients and their carers yet do not fit the fee for service model and Government grants are either not available or an unwieldily instrument.

Perhaps we should look at crowd-funding via one of the above mechanism?
  • Perhaps a patient education internet TV show funded via Patreon.
  • Training materials funded by a Kickstarter campaign.

There are many possibilities. Perhaps such crowd-funding mechanisms might also provide some support against bias induced by corporate sponsorship. Many patient support services just could not be done without some level of corporate sponsorship. If the benefits for the corporation (rewards for funding at a given level) are open on the web for all to see then perhaps this might help mitigate any perception of bias.

Crowd-funding medical services? Perhaps it is time to have a look.

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