Blockchain & Healthcare: Has the Killer App Arrived?

by | Sep 18, 2018 | 0 comments

Everywhere I look in healthcare technology I’m seeing claims that blockchain technology is the silver bullet. We are being told that distributed ledgers will solve all the pain points found in interoperability and soon data will flow like the mighty Mississippi River. Toss in a few smart contracts and insurance companies will evaporate as reimbursement for healthcare services will be totally under the command of computer code. One wishes it would all be so easy.

The search for legitimate use cases of blockchain in healthcare is cloudy. There is a virtual stew of startups that are based on the easy money that has been raised by token sales. There sure is a lot of money that is sloshing around this new industry. Most of these tokens will go to zero.

I find myself not too interested in where blockchain can address current roadblocks. Better mouse traps are good to have but I want something more. I want to know how the unique potential of blockchain can not only improve processes but create new models where they have not existed before. I find myself searching for something I have not seen before. I want to see a blockchain application that can bring something that is totally new and direly needed. Patient empowerment would also be a plus. In the past few weeks I have seen something you need to know about. An idea whose time may have come. It might not be the killer app for blockchain in healthcare, but it could be.

In the past several weeks I have interviewed the CEOs of two companies that are doing something I have not seen before. We all know our personal data is being sold. Facebook sells it. Our de-identified health data is being sold. 23 and Me recently received $300 million from pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline for 4 years of access to your DNA data. How much of that goes to the millions that have bought submission kits and sent in a sample for DNA analysis? You know the answer, ZERO, that’s how much. The real business model is not providing DNA analysis to customers but selling access to that data. Sure, you can opt out, but most do not even know what is happening. Ancestry.com is doing it, everybody is doing it. This is a business model where everyone is getting a slice of the pie except you, the supplier of the underlying data. It makes me mad just thinking about it.

So, what if you could get paid when your de-identified health record or DNA data is put on the auction block? That is exactly what is being offered by two companies I recently ran across in my research. Let me first say I have no financial interest in either firm nor do I presently own any of their tokens.

EncrypGen is a genomic blockchain network. In my recent interview with CEO & Co-founder Dr. David Koespell, he outlined their genomic data marketplace, Gene-Chain. It seems simple. You create an account, download your DNA data file from one of the consumer DNA analysis companies (23 and Me, Ancestry.com, etc.) then upload that file into your Gene-Chain account. Upon the licensing of DNA data, you receive compensation via their token, appropriately named DNA.

PatientDirected allows patients to monetize their healthcare information. In my interview with Founder & CEO Dr. Thomas Giannulli I discovered their process not only allows individuals to be paid for their de-identified healthcare data but also organically supports interoperability. Patient create an account and enter or otherwise import data from all their healthcare providers. Surgical history, diagnoses, medications, lab results, vital signs and other relevant data is aggregated and can then be downloaded or forwarded as you wish. Since there is an active market for health care records you can choose to allow third parties access to your de-identified record. When that occurs, you receive their native token, PDEK, as compensation.

Whether either of the companies will be able to attract a significant amount of data to make them attractive to those that want to access healthcare data is still an open question. The underlying blockchain technology makes it possible for patients to finally share in the commercial use of their healthcare data. To me that is massively disruptive to the status quo and brings enough value and attention to be one of the first killer apps in blockchain and healthcare.

My timely interviews with Drs. Koespell and Giannulli will be streaming soon on HealthcareNOW Radio by tuning into my channel, The Tate Chronicles. My white paper, Blockchain & Healthcare: The Coming Disruption is available to download here.

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