Have you heard of the Spoon Theory? It’s an intangible unit of measurement for patients with a debilitating disease that represents how much energy they have in a given day. Imagine that every morning you have only 20 spoons of energy. They represent all the energy you have that day to do everything you need to do—from taking a shower, to loading the dishwasher, to getting to work or school, or taking care of the kids. Some days, just taking a shower can use up five of those spoons. That leaves you with just 15 spoons, and a trip to the grocery store could take 12 of them! That leaves you with just three to do everything else you need to do that day.
The power of the crowd is changing that. Just a few years ago, only wealthy people could afford to hire all the help it takes to manage your life as a patient on your own. Now, crowd technologies have democratized having a chauffeur, having a personal shopper, having a grocery delivery service, and having, well, almost anything.
If you have access to the Internet, you’ve definitely heard of Uber. It’s a platform that instantly connects riders to drivers. For someone like me, it’s a game changer. There are times when I’m just not well enough to drive, or I need to take pain medication, but I still want to live my life and not be stuck at home. That I couldn’t just hop into my car and drive somewhere whenever I wanted to used to isolate me. Public transportation isn’t always an option for many reasons, including limited access and not exposing myself to a large number of people if I’ve just gotten my immunosuppressant medication. Sometimes I’m not feeling well and just don’t want to deal with the influx of sounds, sights, noise, and people on a bus while trying to deal with pain and other symptoms. When I can’t drive myself, I’m sharply reminded of how people with serious health issues are incredibly alone and often suffer from a lack of independence. Being reliant on other people for your needs can be very difficult for your emotional state.
Now, however, on days when I can’t drive, I’m no longer isolated. Where I live in Silicon Valley, Uber is easily accessible, reliable, fast, and affordable. In fact, in my area, Uber costs less than a taxi! Uber uses the power of the crowd for its drivers. You have to rate the service every single time you use it, so that crowdsourced feedback gives Uber a huge amount of data about their drivers and their riders. Uber has made headlines around the world for its innovative service. It’s not without concerns about driver safety and other issues, but the Uber concept is extremely efficient and provides a badly needed customer service in many places. It has really helped open up my life and take a huge load of stress off me. I no longer constantly worry about transportation.
The Uber concept using a platform and the crowd is spreading to provide just about every other service. Companies like Instacart use the power of the crowd to provide groceries delivered to your door within a couple of hours for about $4 per delivery—a cost that’s accessible to almost everybody. I use it once a week, and I never worry about carrying heavy groceries, taking the time to drive to the store and shop, or coming home from a hospitalization, work, or trip to an apartment empty of food.
Task Rabbit will allow you to hire people to do just about anything you need – from Walgreens run, to cleaning your closets, to moving a couple of heavy things – you can hire someone for just a few minutes of their time, at an affordable price. Postmates will deliver anything to you – my friend Jack Hidary used it once to order something from Home Depot while in a business meeting, and had it delivered to the cafe he was in at the time, in under an hour. Just like Uber, Instacart, Task Rabbit, Magic, Fiveer, Postmates, Lift, and more, they all use the power of the crowd for their workforce. If you have a chronic health problem, this sort of service is hugely helpful because going to supermarket can be very exhausting. If you’re immunocompromised, it’s risky to expose yourself to any public space like a supermarket or drugstore. You can’t be or shouldn’t be in these places. With platform technologies that use the power of the crowd, you don’t have to be. It’s a new world of independence.
This excerpt was originally published in The Patient as CEO.