Harnessing the power of crowds: Crowdsourcing as a novel research method for evaluation of acne treatments

April W. Armstrong, Safia Cheeney, Julie Wu, Caitlin T. Harskamp, Clayton W. Schupp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Crowdsourcing is a novel process of data collection that can provide insight into the effectiveness of acne treatments in real-world settings. Little is known regarding the feasibility of crowdsourcing as a means of collecting dermatology research data, the quality of collected data, and how the data compare to the published literature. Objective: The objective of this analysis is to compare acne data collected from a medical crowdsourcing site with high-quality controlled studies from peer-reviewed medical literature. Methods: Crowdsourced data was collected from 662 online acne patients. Online patients reported data in a Likert-type format to characterize their symptom severity (740 total responses) and their treatment outcomes (958 total responses). The crowdsourced data were compared with meta-analyses and reviews on acne treatment from August 20, 2010 to August 20, 2011. Results: We compared topical, oral systemic, alternative, phototherapy, and physical acne treatments of crowdsourced data to published literature. We focused on topical tretinoin due to the large number of online patient responses. While approximately 80% of tretinoin users observed clinical improvement after a 12-week treatment period in clinical trials, 46%of online users reported improvement in an unspecified time period. For most topical treatments, medication with high efficacy in clinical trials did not produce high effectiveness ratings based on the crowdsourced online data. Conclusion: While limitations exist with the current methods of crowdsourced data collection, with standardization of data collection and use of validated instruments, crowdsourcing will provide an important and valuable platform for collecting high-volume patient data in real-world settings. Adis

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-416
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Dermatology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2012


  • Acne
  • Data collection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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