Last Week Tonight’s host, John Oliver once quipped that blockchain technology combines everything you don’t know about money with everything you don’t know about computers.
Well, having attended Healthcare Unblocked – Europe’s first public event fully dedicated to understanding and pursuing the potential of blockchain technology to deliver healthcare innovation – I can confidently confirm that blockchain tech now comprises of everything I don’t know about healthcare as well…
Highlights of the afternoon at London’s Prospero House on November 9th included an interview with BioLife’s Serena Yin by organiser Helen Disney, a lively panel focussed on blockchain applications in healthcare and a presentation by Solve.Care’s Pradeep Goel. The conference also featured a startup showcase in which the top prize was awarded to LookHealth’s Dr Maureen Emeagi.
BioLife’s Serena Yin set the scene for the day by adeptly summarising the sheer scope of potential that recent technological developments could have in solving some of the most pressing issues which face the health sector today. Taking her native China as a focal point, Yin detailed for Helen Disney the ways in which BioLife is using artificial intelligence, the ‘Internet of Things’, machine learning and the blockchain to provide innovative new approaches to the nation’s medical practices. Yin argued that issues surrounding the verification of healthcare providers and the traceability of medical supplies could be all but eliminated by the products and services being developed on BioLife’s platform. She was also keen to emphasise where the fledgling enterprises priorities lie;
“[BioLife] isn’t a blockchain project, it’s a healthcare solution”
The panel that followed brought together five different voices from around the industry, including two doctors and a physiotherapist, and the debate which it fostered tackled the thorny ethical issues raised by the monetisation of medical data as well as the blockchain’s suitability to protect said data.
Aman Quadri, CEO of AmSys was refreshingly honest regarding the less edifying side of commercial data handling, comparing big data to crude oil and citing that whilst the big insurers and pharmaceutical players seek out, “a critical mass of data” serious grey areas still exist over the ownership of personal records. Does the patient own information relating to their medical well-being, or does ownership reside with the keeper of the record, ie the provider? The line becomes increasingly blurred with the inclusion of blockchain technology. In theory, every individual could have complete control over their own records and therefore grant access to them in exchange for tokens or services. This in turn could give rise to a macabre micro-economy in which those with the most numerous or complicated conditions would have the most to gain.
Dr Suhail Chughtai, Director of MedicalCity was quick to pour cold water on this bold new vision of a future where patients leverage their records for care when he exclaimed;
“If you’re being given something for free, then you’re the product!”
Pradeep Goel took to the stage next and brought proceedings right back down to earth, what interests the Solve.Care founder and CEO is demonstrable real-life use cases. As the physician turned tech entrepreneur told the Fintech Times in a recent exclusive;
“This is [about] mass adoption of blockchain in healthcare that will really save clear economic value for payers, providers and patients, all three. Insurance companies, doctors and patients all have economic value, clinical value and administrative value. Economic value for the payer is lower cost and better results. For the doctor it’s faster payments, accurate payment, less bureaucracy and more time to spend with the patient. Faster payment and fewer administrative steps is a really important thing for doctors. And for the patient it’s clarity on what’s happening and why it’s happening, what their role is in getting well. It’s better transparency and better results.”
With Goel highlighting the need for action not just theory, the stage was set for the afternoon’s startup showcase which featured four contenders;
- Chain Cubed – A service provider creating Proof-of-Concepts for blockchain projects
- Grapevine World – Standardising data transfer based on IHE standards
- Look Health – A medical Platform to predict, prevent and manage metabolic diseases like diabetes using AI and blockchain
- MyEarthID – A decentralised Identity Management System used for online or offline authentication across the world
The project that most exemplified the ethos of Healthcare Unblocked through its seamless integration of practical remedial care and DLT implementation was Dr Maureen Emeagi’s passion project LookHealth. The good doctor spoke with great clarity and conviction about her vision for a system of patient care which puts the emphasis on prevention rather than cure through an ingenious condition tracking and incentive granting model. Dr Emeagi’s victory proved a fitting end to a conference whose focus was sharply centred on solutions, not problems and the future not the past.