Year in, and year out, people continue to wonder how long the crypto hype is going to continue. The volatility of the market and the crashes it has faced keep leading some to believe that the digital currency’s time has come to an end, but without fail, it always pops back up again. But why?
This month at The Fintech Times we’re going to be looking at what makes digital currencies, most notably cryptocurrencies, so popular, while also uncovering the emerging alternatives to cryptos and why the digital future looks so intriguing.
We kickstart the month by looking at some of the most popular blockchain initiatives in different sectors, with healthcare being our next point of focus.
We hear from David Shuler, Dr Kelly Marie McVearry, Kevin Madura and Richard Baker about the most popular blockchain initiatives currently taking place within the healthcare industry.
When blockchain meets data
Opening the conversation, Shuler discusses the application of blockchain in authenticating data while allowing it to be more efficiently shared.
Shuler is the board director of Life Group Holdings, Inc., a platform that makes large volumes of hotel bookings available for trading on secondary markets by being digitised and converted into tradable, collectable non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Shuler begins by confirming the importance of blockchain applications in healthcare, which represents around 20 per cent of the US GDP.
He describes its advantages as “enabling data to be shared efficiently between patients and their medical service providers,” but says that while maintaining patient privacy is crucial, the process is “very expensive using traditional systems.”
Turning to how blockchain is being used to seal the authenticity of this data, Shuler explains how “blockchain uses time stamping to authenticate changes to a dataset, even if more than one user has permission to edit a document,” which he says “makes it ideal for managing electronic health records (EHR).”
Shuler points to companies BurstIQ and IRYO as examples of this technology in motion. Both are developing blockchain-based systems to “efficiently update medical records with data from multiple sources, potentially saving billions,” he concludes.
Blockchain and biomedical inclusion
Up next, McVearry discusses how the latest healthcare blockchain initiatives are cultivating benefits for consumer trust industry representation.
McVearry is the co-founder and CEO of Bento Bio, a patient empowerment platform that seeks to address the diversity problem in clinical trials and human genomics research.
The company couples modern bio-sampling tools with blockchain technology and decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO) tokenomics.
“The much-anticipated era of personalised molecular medicine, cell therapy, and genome-guided precision medicine is starting to arrive, but not for everyone,” says McVearry.
Citing the words of Dr Janet Woodcock of the FDA, “There is an urgent unmet need to diversify enrollment in clinical trials so that new drugs and new treatments meet the needs of all citizens.”
According to McVearry, minority groups and rural populations continue to be grossly underrepresented in clinical trials and genomic studies.
“When these diversity problems are solved, we can turn science into medicine faster and close the gap in health disparities,” she says.
So what’s the missing link?
McVearry confirms that instead of the obvious culprits, like the state of science or lab tech, “it’s trust.”
The company addresses this problem with Web3 patient-empowerment tools engineered with trustless blockchain infrastructure, enabling patients to participate in the clinical research enterprise as data owners, not mere data donors.
Discussing this, she explains how “each patient is a platform, with tools to build, control, mint, share and even monetise their biological digital twin.”
“Bento Biology Platform uses smart contract protocols and a tokenization model to put shared value economic principles into practice through our DAO,” McVearry explains further.
“Early adopters see Bento as a means to participate in the biotech economy as true partners in the quest for cures and precision medicine.”
During the platform’s recent national pilot test, the data reports that 100 per cent of minority participants felt that the ‘bento box’ experience and mobile tools made them ‘more likely’ to participate in clinical trials.
“This blockchain-driven technology is now being piloted in other use cases including remote communities in Alaska, patient groups with rare diseases, and patient groups with complex autoimmune conditions,” concludes McVearry.
Securing the healthcare system
According to Madura, the healthcare industry continues to experiment with the capabilities of blockchain technology at pace, with startups especially exploring the viability of improving the highly regulated and complex industry.
Madura is the senior vice president of digital at AlixPartners, a US-based financial advisory and consultancy firm.
Although the ability to place patient data ‘on-chain’ is limited due to the public nature of many blockchains, he explains how “there could be applications for proving certain relationships or patient histories in a secure way.”
Madura points to companies Avaneer Health, which is driving towards improving claims processing, and Chronicled, which is building a new mechanism to establish a chain of custody for prescriptions, as examples of this.
“Many questions remain about the regulatory and data challenges in utilising blockchain technology for health purposes,” he continues, “but using this new technology may unlock opportunities for a more portable, secure and improved health system.”
Rounding off our conversation, here Baker outlines the most interesting points raised by his peers, underlining the security and practicality of the blockchain within healthcare.
Baker is the CEO of TAAL, a vertically integrated blockchain infrastructure and service provider for enterprises.
Baker points to “the immutability of entries on the blockchain” and its “track-and-trace ability” as key examples of blockchain initiatives in healthcare.
He explains that these two qualities are allowing patients and medical practitioners to have “a thorough understanding of medicines, including vaccine ingredients while staying secure.”
“On top of that, users can control their data through encrypted private keys that give them authority to reveal personal info to whom they choose,” he continues.
“The potential here once mass adoption happens is truly revolutionary.”