Ever wish shopping for health insurance was as easy as shopping for shoes? As a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), most Americans are required to have health insurance, but struggle to find an affordable plan that fits their needs “just right.” Recognizing the need for effective technological solutions to improve the health insurance shopping process, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sponsored the RWJF Rx Cost and Coverage Challenge in collaboration with Vericred. The challenge prompted developers to create blueprint solutions providing simplified access to the many choices in the health insurance exchange marketplace that would allow consumers to directly compare prescription cost and coverage. Vericred, PokitDok, Iodine, and GoodRx each provided APIs for the challenge. These APIs supplied formulary data and information corresponding to drug costs allowing developers to create accurate and helpful solutions.
Phase I finalists include Clear Health Analytics, a health insurance consultancy system that empowers clear and unbiased cost comparisons. Honest Health, Inc., a platform that offers the transparent ability to choose the best healthcare options. CleaRx, a unique plan that helps consumers find the best alternative Rx selections in the market. Pillsy, your own personal medical assistant, providing an easier way to manage vitamins and medications. And last but not least, C4B Solutions, an ingenious software set out to accelerate the interoperability of the healthcare industry.
Comparing prescription cost and coverage is complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. We’re counting on finalists of the Rx Cost and Coverage Challenge to fix it as they move on to Phase II to develop a fully functional mobile or web application. This idea will be brought to life and provide consumers with beneficial access to reliable information on drug value and effectiveness.
Tune in for more information on this challenge and others by signing up for our Catalyst newsletter.
Health 2.0 is proud to have Dr. Amy Abernethy, the CMO/CSO and SVP of Oncology at Flatiron Health, join us to demo for our mainstage panel – “Data Drives Decisions and Discovery” this year! Flatiron Health, which recently led a $175 million Series C funding round, looks to serve cancer patients by improving treatment and accelerating research by leveraging the power of big data. At Flatiron, Amy leads the clinical and oncology data teams and is helping direct Flatiron into it’s next phase of growth. Prior to joining Flatiron, Amy was a professor of medicine at Duke Medical Center and the director for Duke Medical’s Cancer Care Research Program and for the Duke Center for Learning Health Care.
Amy will join us on the stage to demo and speak about Flatiron’s latest developments. She will give her insights into how big data can be leveraged to drastically improve cancer care and treatment and how Flatiron thinks they can become a leader in driving this field forward. We are looking forward to having Amy join us on our stage and to hear more about Flatiron Health!
We are excited to have Claudia Williams, the Senior Advisor of Health Innovation and Technology of the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy, at our Fall Conference this year! Claudia will be joining us for our “Data Drives Decisions and Discovery” mainstage panel. A senior healthcare executive with over 20 years of experience, Claudia helps lead President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI). She also focuses on developing new payment and care transformation policies that leverage HIT and open data, building strategic partnerships with diverse stakeholders to spur digital health innovation, and galvanizing and leading the blue button movement.
Given her experience in the health care field and with the PMI, Claudia will provide her insights into this initiative. Given that this idea has been proposed in the past, she will describe why she believes this effort is unique from other past efforts. She will also speak about future innovations in this field and describe how she believes this will take shape within the PMI and the health care industry as a whole. We are really looking forward to having Claudia at our conference and hope that you are as well!
We are extremely excited to welcome Dr. DJ Patil, the Chief Data Scientist of the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy, to Health 2.0’s 10th Annual Fall Conference stage! DJ is one of the leading data scientists in the world, even helping to coin the term early on in his career. It is only fitting that he is joining us for our mainstage panel “Data Drives Decisions and Discovery: Intelligence for a New Era.”
At the White House, DJ advises on policies and practices to maintain U.S. leadership in technology and innovation, fosters partnerships to maximize the Nation’s return on its investment in data, and helps to attract and retain the best minds in data science to serve the public. Before his current position, DJ had held several positions as a premier data scientist in the public and private sectors and in academia.
With his wealth of experience, DJ will give the Health 2.0 audience the latest insights into all things data in health and health care. He will look back over the past ten years to give his outlook on the most significant innovations in data science and give his take on where health care is today. DJ will also look into the future of data, looking at challenges to forward progress (i.e. data silos) and assess what innovators in this space can do to continue to enable innovation for the next ten years. We are looking forward to having DJ join us on our stage this year!
200 LIVE Product Demos. 100+ Thought Leaders. 10 New Company Launches. 2000+ Attendees. 4 Days of Prime Networking. Known as the largest global conference and innovation community in digital health, Health 2.0 is excited to announce the final agenda for The 10th Annual Fall Conference. Speakers will focus on their unique challenges that they have faced within the healthcare system as well as opportunities to advance healthy communities:
- DJ Patil, Deputy CTO, White House Office of Science and Tech Policy will discuss how the fields of life science and health technology steadily intertwine as the rise of wearable sensors and other connected devices continue to evolve alongside advanced genomic analysis, cheaper personal diagnostics, with more flexible data analysis bringing them all together.
- Harvey Fineberg, President, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, will describe the expanding challenges faced by serious illness patients and their families, and explore the opportunities and challenges to develop innovative and useful technology solutions.
- Karen DeSalvo, Acting Assistant Secretary, HHS, will speak on how the HHS is helping to build a better health care system by driving innovation, and how players across the health care system can come together to engage and empower consumers, and put patients at the center of their care.
- Ian Morrison, Founding Partner, Strategic Health Perspectives specializes in long-term forecasting and planning with particular emphasis on health care and the changing business environment. He will share with us some of his latest insights and provide a glimpse into the future of health care
Other speakers include:
- Claudia Williams, Director HIE, OSTP
- Vindell Washington, National Coordinator HIT, ONC
- Laverne Council, CIO, Dept of Veteran Affairs
- Jonathan Bush, CEO, athenahealth
- Owen Tripp, CEO, Grand Rounds
- Greg Orr, VP Digital Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance
- Monique Mrazek, Invest. Officer, IFC/World Bank Group
- California Senator Ed Hernandez
- Michael Painter, Program Officer, RWJF
- Stuart McGuigan, VP & CIO, Johnson & Johnson
… and over 100 more speakers.
Key Sessions will include:
- The Intersection of Technology and Public Health for Stronger Communities
- Accelerating Innovation: Cedar Sinai & Techstars
- The Next Gen Consumer: Tech for Healthy Choices
- Information Blocking, APIs & App Stores: The State of Play in Data Access
- Data Drives Decisions & Delivery: Intelligence for a New Era
- Medicaid as a Market: Bringing Innovative Solutions to the Safety Net
- The Care Continuum: Innovative Solutions for Ongoing Care
- Platforms for Chronic Disease Management
- The New Frontier: Exploring the Future of VR in Health
- What Employers Want from Health Tech Companies
- Diving into the Gene Pool: The Future of Genomics and Personalized Medicine
and many more!
BUT Health 2.0 is famous for its incredible selection of LIVE 4 Minute Demos, and this year you’ll see:
● Shift Health
● Limelight Health
● Healthcare Bluebook
● Stride Health
● Stroll Health
● Bigfoot Biomedical, Inc.
● Sensoria, Inc
● Siemens Healthineers
● Elation Health
● Conversa Health
● Medtronic Diabetes Group
● Vios Medical
● PreciseMeds, LLC
● Flatiron Health
Learn more about the agenda here and visit the registration website to attend.
***Note: If you cannot attend the conference in person, we have live webcast and flash drive archive options available!
Health 2.0 Is Expediting The Health Technology Buying Process
SAN FRANCISCO, September 6, 2016. Kaiser and Takeda join Health 2.0’s MarketConnect: a vetted buyer-seller forum for health technology. Through vigorous vetting of health technology companies and matching based on prospective buyers’ needs, Health 2.0 is simplifying and expediting the health tech buying and selling process during their 10th Annual Fall Conference on September 24-29 in Santa Clara.
A first of its kind, Health 2.0’s MarketConnect is an invitation only forum for buyers and sellers to be pre-matched for market compatibility and facilitate technology acquisition. Executives from organizations such as Kaiser Permanente, Lumos Labs, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and more will be looking for to connect with technology companies.
The networking program is designed to break down the barriers of technology adoption within large health systems and health organizations to connect tech companies directly with pre-qualified executives that are interested in seeing vetted technologies that are relevant to problems that are trying to solve.
How it works: Health 2.0 works with closely with buyers to identify specific areas where technology is needed and a solution is required within 12 months. Health 2.0 then assess the digital health marketplace and identifies relevant companies aligned with buyer’s’ technology needs and connect buyers with hand-picked companies during our MarketConnect event at Health 2.0’s Annual Fall Conference. During the event, buyers will meet with up to 5 compatible companies with the intent of purchasing suitable technologies.
More for information about MarketConnect and the 10th Annual Fall Conference, go to www.health2con.com.
About Health 2.0
Health 2.0 is the premiere showcase and catalyst for the advancement of new health technologies. Through a global series of conferences, thought leadership roundtables, developer competitions, pilot programs, and leading market intelligence, Health 2.0 drives the innovation and collaboration necessary to transform health and health care.
It has happened to the best of us.
You come up with a life-changing concept and want to build a new product around it but don’t have the technical chops to make it happen. Five years later, someone else takes your idea to market and you say: “That could have been me.” Worse yet, maybe you have the idea and the technical ability but you don’t have the industry know-how to make it a reality. This can especially be true when your idea involves solutioning for the healthcare industry + developing software (referred to as ‘digital health’) that meets both providers’ and consumers’ needs…all while navigating the stack of regulations governing work in this field.
There’s hope! Whether you have a big idea, a small idea, or no idea at all (yet!), there is a new program that you should join that helps you realize your digital health ambitions. Take a look:
A digital health pre-accelerator is born. Leveraging its 2,000 members in San Francisco and extensive network from across the region, leaders from the local Health 2.0 chapter are launching a pre-accelerator program this fall called Project Zygote. The program brokers relationships among various healthcare entrepreneurs and then takes them through programming to vet and develop new digital health solutions. The program’s purpose is (1) to create teams that include at least one provider, one technologist, and one go-to-market professional to develop a digital health concept and (2) to help gain placement in a full-fledged accelerator or formal incubator program.
For those digital health entrepreneurs who have already formed a team, business plan, and oftentimes a prototype, exposure to established accelerator programs can be helpful to advance new product ideas. Rock Health, Launchpad Digital Health, and StartUp Health are well known entities that give early-stage companies the mentorship, funding, and healthcare industry contacts they need to bring their ideas to market.
That said, the demand for these services far exceeds supply. In some instances, accelerator programs are forced to refuse upwards of 90% of applicants due to space constraints. Moreover, many new ideas are turned away because they are perceived to need further vetting and refinement for acceptance into and successful completion of a traditional digital health accelerator program. In other words, in order for a traditional startup accelerator to work, there must be some sort of traction to accelerate.
But what about the rest of the idea generators – pre-team, pre-business plan, lacking a prototype…people with a vision and energy to pursue it? Who does the family practice physician, inspired by a patient interaction, go to with his new technology idea? How about the mobile game developer who can apply her knowledge of human psychology and gamification to solve a healthcare problem?
Enter the digital health pre-accelerator. For aspiring entrepreneurs who want to explore digital health ideas before jumping from their day jobs, a pre-accelerator program is an attractive option. Participation in Project Zygote provides an opportunity for an interdisciplinary team to unite, vet ideas and increase the likelihood of truly improving the healthcare industry.
There are three distinct groups broadly defined as providers, technologists, and go-to-market professionals, that can most benefit by collaborating in a digital health pre-accelerator:
Providers, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, case workers, nutritionists, and other allied health professionals who know firsthand the problems that need to be solved in the delivery of healthcare services. Since these professionals work within the healthcare system, they can credibly diagnose today’s service delivery problems and have numerous ideas on the application of technology-enabled solutions that can fix these woes. However, providers lack the expertise required to build or scale new digital health solutions and must collaborate with others who can build new products in line with requirements this group articulates.
Technologists, including user experience designers, user researchers, and software engineers. Based on firsthand observations, technology creators in the San Francisco Bay Area are often motivated to “disrupt” healthcare by jumping in and leveraging their skills to build the next ‘app’. While the spirit of entrepreneurship and shipping product quickly are key ingredients to instigating change, jumping in, often with only drawing from a consumer’s perspective on healthcare delivery, can be shortsighted if not misguided. As with developing a solution for any industry, technologists need exposure to and vetting of ideas by experienced providers that can validate and guide technologists’ thinking and ideation process.
Go-to-market professionals, such as those in sales, marketing, business development, and public relations. Inclusion of this group should occur at the idea’s inception, regardless of for- or non-profit motivations; appreciating the payment model options for digital health solutions is a key component that entrepreneurs need to consider early in the process. For example, deciding when to follow a B2B2C model with payers and provider organizations versus a B2C model should be factored in as part of any launch strategy.
The program. Project Zygote begins with a matchmaking event and then moves into a series of educational and mentoring sessions spread across three weekend days, ultimately culminating in a pitch night at a Health 2.0 San Francisco chapter meeting. Programming is broken into three modules including:
- Validating a digital health market fit
- Designing data collection/analysis to prove the efficacy of a new solution
- Building a business model to capture the value of the new solution.
Our pilot program kicks off in mid-September 2016. With over 20 program leaders who are experts in their respective fields, participants will receive the invaluable training and skills needed to realize their ideas and ultimately transform the healthcare industry, improving medicine for both providers and patients.
Do you want to make your idea a reality? Anybody with an idea (big, small, or none at all) is welcome to apply. We’re actively seeking applicants so submit your interest here www.projectzygote.org/participate to learn more.
Andy Strunk is President of the 2,000-member Health 2.0 San Francisco chapter (www.health2sf.com)
On a hunt for the most promising health tech startups? Look no further than Traction: Health 2.0’s Startup Pitch Competition. Ten finalists will pitch their tech live, and face off in just under one month, for the title of “2016’s Most Fundable Startup.”
Kicking off Health 2.0’s 10th Annual Fall Conference on Monday September 26th, Traction will feature companies ready to raise a Series A round of $2-$15M, in two tracks; Consumer Facing and Professional Facing technologies. Our group of expert mentors will be working with the ten finalists to improve their pitches in the time between today and the event. Judges will then decide on-site which company has the greatest potential to grow and secure funding in the next year. Get your “Conference Admission + Traction” ticket today to see ten of the most promising startups compete for funding in front of leading venture capitalists including New Atlantic Ventures, Lemhi Ventures, and many more.
This Year’s Finalists Include:
Biome’s suite of applications are algorithmically based tools that focus on the clinical and financial drivers with the greatest impact on outcomes to help clinicians make the best decisions.
HeartGenetics has created the HEARTDECODE® reporting system, allowing genetic tests providers to perform comprehensive, simpler reports, supporting accurate diagnosis, prognosis, risk stratification and drug prescription.
Kermit’s cloud based analytics platform digitizes vendor bill sheets, identify trends and root issues, and unlocks savings opportunities to control PPI (physician preference items) Spend for hospitals.
Moving Analytics helps cardiac centers improve the utilization of their Cardiac Rehab, remote heart failure and COPD programs by augmenting it with a home-based program delivered through patient’s’ mobile devices.
Stroll Inc. provides a tablet-based tool for PCPs to share the information about upcoming treatment options, such as location, negotiated rates and actual cost based on individual deductible status and home location in real time.
Advanced Telesensors has created a non-contact cardiac and respiration sensor with motion and noise tolerance that can monitor vital signs from over 3 Meters away.
Copilots In Care’s web application guide’s patients and their families through their end-of-life care process, helping them reflect on their medical goals through questions and educational materials, sharing the patients’ responses with their provider, and followed with in-person support facilitating discussion.
Inteliclinic’s “Neuroon,” a revolutionary wearable mask, uses Bright Light Therapy to help people sleep better and fight circadian rhythm disorders such as jet lag and insomnia.
UnaliWear’s Kanega watch uses a speech based interface to provide discreet support for falls, medication reminders, and “guide-me-home” assistance, eliminating the need for ugly and hard to use screens.
VaGenie has created a device and coaching system for Kegel fitness and tracking that uses biofeedback to help strengthen the pelvic floor, strengthening the core, restoring feminine control, and building confidence.
Join an audience of over 2,000 professionals, innovators, venture capitalists, and thought-leaders who are driving the digital health revolution at Health 2.0’s 10th Annual Fall Conference in Santa Clara, CA on September 25th – 28th. With over 200 live product demos, over 100 thought leaders and 10 new company launches, Health 2.0 annually convenes the leading conference linking health care with new digital technologies. We can’t wait to see what this year will bring!
Learn more about the agenda here and register to attend.
Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans has a very unique innovation model with a team that operates with the flexibility and autonomy of a start up, unlike the approach of most major healthcare organizations. In Part I of this series, I explained how they re-imagined patient care for a specific group of cardiology patients and shared the highlights of my tour of Ochsner’s Optimal Hospital.
This part is a deep dive into my interview with Jonathan Wilt, who was previously an engineer at Epic, and then ran his own consultancy firm, before joining Ochsner to lead the innovation team which currently consists of 18 people split between clinicians and engineers.
Omar Shaker: Thanks for having me Jonathan. Can you please explain when your innovation department was created and the purpose behind it?
Jonathan Wilt: If you want to be competitive in healthcare over the next five years, you need to think of what’s to come. Value-based care will be the trend for entire industry, and so we must innovate to reduce cost and improve quality. The innovation department was built two years ago with the purpose of exploring new technologies and how we can use them to reinvent the clinical model.
OS: Experimentation of that sort doesn’t usually yield any return on investments in the short term though, how does your department resolve that with leadership?
JW: What we want is to reimagine how the patients are treated across the organization. The timeline on our projects’ returns are 3-5 years. Preventative care can’t show you outcomes or savings in a short time. We’re trying to prevent strokes and heart attacks. It’s not like you can say: If this patient’s blood pressure is under control then they won’t get a heart attack or vice versa.
Leadership understands that, and the department was created by Dr. Richard Milani with that vision. I don’t need results next month; I need results in a 2/3 year cycle. We can start 15 projects and they’d get narrowed down to one successful project.
To balance that, we sometimes need to work on smaller projects that are simply about optimizing existing business functions to make some revenue or cut some costs. We’d rather always be working on the cool stuff, but this is what is sometimes required to balance the budget and be able to pursue bigger things.
OS: What are some of those projects that you are working on?
JW: We have three major buckets of projects:
- Digital Medicine Projects:
Our Digital Medicine Hypertension Program has 200 patients who had uncontrolled blood pressure and 70% of them have reached a controlled state within six months. We ask them to send a single measure per week and we get an average of six readings per patient per week!
We also have a wireless weight monitoring program for all cardiac patients, coupled with a medication adherence program done through our pharmacists who are part of our department.
The doctors absolutely love this program because it makes the follow up process much more effective and the patients are more engaged, because of the increased number of contact points that happens throughout their care plan.
This is our Optimal Hospital Project which is an innovation wing in the cardiology department with 15 beds. This is where we test all our ideas and experiment with wireless monitoring, lab testing schedules, different lighting, sound monitoring and many more variables. We study how these changes help our patients’ recovery.
Text message appointment reminders are a good example for that bucket, where 140,000 people signed up in eight weeks. There was a huge demand that we weren’t fulfilling. The goal is to make patients more comfortable and giving them what they want.
OS: What are the biggest enablers you’ve had for your successes so far?
JW: Having agile leadership that supports and trusts us is vital for our success. We don’t need to go through approvals like other big organizations. This trustworthy atmosphere creates space for creativity.
Another thing that was instrumental for us was Apple’s Healthkit. It was a game changer, because it allowed us to push information from all these sensors straight into our medical records without having to worry about all the integration which would’ve taken immense amounts of work from us.
I’m a strong believer that things belong in their places and I’m very strict on maintenance. We can’t innovate in the future if we are constantly maintaining bad code or bad integrations. We have an electronic medical record, so we don’t build add-ons, everything lives inside of Epic. We do not want to invent a new universe or new web app, and that gives us a lot of data advantages.
As I explored New Orleans for the first time, a sense of authenticity struck me. Everything about the city whether cuisine, paintings, shops, music jams or second line parades seemed to come from the heart. Everyone is in the moment and wants to share it. When I thought my trip couldn’t get any better, I stumbled upon the digital health innovation nirvana implemented by Ochsner Health System all around the city.
During a long jolly and warm night roaming around Frenchmen street, I met Henry Gould, a software engineer with innovation Ochsner (iO), an innovation lab and accelerator created by Ochsner Health System. We stood in a jazz club’s balcony and as the band played an acoustic cover of the classic WhenThe SaintsGo Marching In, Henry explained how their team has complete autonomy over a cardiology unit, and are given the budget to experiment freely with mobile health technologies. Coming from San Francisco, and having interviewed many of the incredible companies on both coasts, I was skeptical but very intrigued.
I set up an interview with Jonathan Wilt, Assistant Vice President & Chief Technology Officer of iO, and six weeks later I flew back to New Orleans. I was also just in time to see Stevie Wonder and Buddy Guy live at Jazz Fest!
Ochsner Medical Center in Louisiana is a non-profit, 609-bed general medical and surgical teaching facility. The innovation office where Henry, Jonathan and the rest of the team works is setup very similarly to a Silicon Valley start-up. Pin boards, agile post-it notes, multiple giant screens with colorful lines of code, no walls or cubicles– everyone in the room is facing the rest of the team and lots of dialogue going back and forth amidst an exciting work atmosphere.
The team is 18 people strong, with a mix of software engineers and pharmacists. They are fully endorsed and led by Dr. Richard Milani whose vision is to completely reimagine the way Ochsner’s patients receive treatment. The team has many exciting initiatives, but this piece is about how they are redesigning the process of what it means to be a cardiac patient at Ochsner.
The reimagined process goes as follows:
- The Patient is Admitted to the Optimal Hospital Cardiology Unit
The hospital is a hectic and draining place which we all dread, and the iO is making both subtle and overt tweaks in their wing to change that. First off, the patients receive wireless monitors for continuous monitoring of heart rate from their rooms. There are no wires or probes, and that also means that the nurses do not have to walk in on the patient to measure vital data. The data measured is synced to Epic, the electronic medical record, and shows up in the nurse’s office.
The team is also optimizing the patient’s sleep. Instead of having a nurse draw lab results at 4 am in the morning, the nurse spares the patient any sleep interruptions and draws them at 6 am instead. They also have switched the typical bright white glaring lights to softer red lights for night time.
A sound sensor in the hallway collects information about how much noise the patient is exposed to and if there is a certain pattern which they can modify to make for a more convenient and relaxing patient experience.
Henry showing me the Optimal Hospital Cardiology Unit with wireless sensors, mobile monitoring and hallway sound analysis
- On discharge, the patient visits the O Bar
Being a digital medicine nerd, this is my favorite part. The team has set up an Apple Store-esque O Bar which holds all the biosensors, fitness trackers and vital data monitors I can think of. Patients are greeted by a health tech expert, which helps them choose the right device, sets it up for them and trains them on how to use it. This prepares the patient for Ochsner’s home-based follow up.
The O Bar in Action: https://youtu.be/D4Bw3r5Vk5o
- Home-based follow up rather than inefficient appointments.
Most patients with heart problems are provided with a wireless scale to measure their weight on a daily basis from home, and it is directly uploaded into Epic. In addition, the team of pharmacist clinicians (hired by the iO team) follows up every 2-3 weeks to make sure they are on track with medications. This way the contact points with the patients are far more than what normally happens with 3-6 month appointment intervals. When the time comes for appointments, patients are sent a text message reminder.
Learning about Ochsner’s implementation of these programs gave me hope. What is being talked about in Health 2.0 conferences can be implemented in meaningful ways that make both patients and clinicians have a healthier, efficient and more convenient experience of healthcare. In the same vein of everything that is unique about New Orleans, the iO team definitely approaches digital medicine in a very authentic way worth studying.
Although a rainstorm hit Louisiana the next day and rained over my Stevie Wonder and Buddy Guy plans, I was far from disappointed because what I had learned from Jonathan and Henry had already made the trip worth it. To learn more about the business model and details of their innovation strategy, check out Part II of this piece with my full interview with Jonathan Wilt.
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Bitcoin, the digital “crypto” currency, has stirred a lot of hope, hype and fear since its launch in 2008. It is praised by obsessive enthusiasts as the solution to a broken financial system, and yet heavily slandered by critics who find it unsustainable and a loophole for malicious dark web activities. Boom or bust, Bitcoin has offered us a new perspective on how an economy can work without a central bank. The most revolutionary idea behind it though, is not the currency itself, but the underlying technology, called the Blockchain.
“Let’s say I transfer $10 worth of bitcoin to you, Blockchain is like a giant spreadsheet that lets everyone in the system verify that the $10 belongs to you now, with the option of keeping my own identity anonymous.” says Chelsea Barabas, Head of Social Innovation at MIT Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative. Her keynote addressed a crowd of healthcare futurists last year at Exponential Medicine. “This functionality alone has multiple applications in several industries, one example is using it to track pharmaceutical supply chains, and verify that drugs made it to the patient”.
I had the chance to speak to Chelsea after a workshop in which she and FROG – the design consultancy firm- guided Exponential Medicine attendees through brainstorming and creating health care solutions using Blockchain.
“Blockchain is a decentralized public global ledger [database] which is also secure and depersonalized and temper proof.” explained Carlos Elena-Lenz, Principal Technology Strategist at FROG. “This technology can be used as a strong interoperability tool for healthcare data transfer from and between hospitals and other stakeholders”. Because Blockchain provides a unified platform for all users, with user permissions for access, it could be the perfect backbone for an Electronic Medical Record. Patients would own their data, share it only with their doctors and otherwise have it securely encrypted.
It is not news, that EMR systems don’t speak to each other, which really defies the point of their existence, in my humble opinion. Could blockchain possibly disrupt the strong business incentive against sharing data which the EMR companies still have despite Meaningful Use? “Industry forces are very strong, but history shows that when you build an experience that is so horrible you lose your sales and customers eventually. MS Office has been entrenched in companies for so long, but now there is a Google for work fighting strong for enterprise clients.” says Carlos.
“The space is evolving very fast because it is open source, so a lot of companies like Factum, Ripple bags, Etherium and a host of others are improving it and taking it into different directions.
Silicon Valley is often hungry for quick short term change, but it’ll take a while for cryptocurrency to go through its trajectory which is mostly dependent on behavior.” Carlos told me enthusiastically “We’re still at the pilot and exploration phase. There’s a lot of activity from tech to financial services companies exploring that space very hard. Mostly investments and capability building and were likely to see the fruits of this space in the next 2 years.”
Carlos builds diverse teams at FROG to pilot use cases for the technology to be used for interoperability and providing a better user experience for their healthcare clients. “We are very excited about the potential, but with opportunities rise obstacles and other threats. Some of the challenges include a limitation on size of blocks, finding the right consensus algorithm, and adding the application layer.”
Chelsea, on the other hand, spends a lot of time at MIT media lab thinking about user-centric access privileges and has big ideas to re-design of the whole internet. “Instead of a user name and a password for all these websites, we can use blockchain to establish an identity that can be used to verify, possess and control our own data.”
What inspired Chelsea to that grand vision was an early fascination with the idea of gender inequality, specifically when it comes to employment. She then realized that there are companies that create digital profiles of who we are and then send them to recruiters based on the content we have online. “This does not just make someone else make money off your own data, but it is also very inaccurate! You can be unemployed because of information that doesn’t even belong to you!” says Chelsea. “What if you can verify that data, own it, and then give privileges to those companies you want to work for. Enter Blockchain.”
This applies to healthcare in many ways. With the rise of more digital data than ever before, a dire industrial need for encryption, and the rise of new patient centric models Blockchain seems like a perfect fit in many areas such as:
1-Population Health and Clinical Studies: Allowing for proper encryption and patients to keep their identities anonymous, data can be extracted from a larger population as opposed to strictly being from volunteers. This can provide more accurate and larger sample sizes for trials, while maintaining HIPAA integrity.
2- Interoperability: Blockchain can be a unified IT backbone hat aggregates data from multiple sources such as different EMRs and mobile apps, allowing for a more open ecosystem.
3- Patient-Centricity: Since the patient’s identity is protected, blockchain can gather data and give the patient direct personalized recommendations based on their unique condition and status without violating security.
4- Security: As mentioned before Blockchain allows for end-to-end encryption and a way to make data anonymous.
5- Supply Chain Management: Drug delivery or tracking which patients received which services is simple with the ledger format in which blockchain is designed.
As the future of medicine is becoming more about the intersections of technologies, as professionals in the industry we must constantly challenge ourselves to learn more about these technologies. This particular one, Blockchain, which comes from the fin-tech space, can be transformative in healthcare over the next few years.