At this years’ SXSW it was all about blockchain and cryptocurrencies, but it was like that at HIMSS, JPM, CES, etc. as well. Since we wrote already about the first of the two buzzwords – blockchain as a trend in Healthcare, we decided to tackle the idea of cryptocurrencies in healthcare. First, we checked around the office and found out that several devs have been in a couple of Telegram chat rooms as they tried to buy “health coins” in a presale (ICO – initial Coin Offering; Pre-ICO).
Will you be buying your next health plan with ethereum? Or is the new health coin going to solve the problem of fragmented healthcare records?
The idea behind cryptocurrencies, is to secure financial transactions using strong cryptography, control the creation of additional units (so no more “printing money” or to use a more serious term ”quantitative easing”) and basically allow us to sell a car at a local parking lot at 11 pm to a guy we met online and know the transaction is verified, and the money in our digital wallet. However, will it allow us to have a better and secure payment structure between providers and payers, or a more secure access to our health records, with the option of communicating with multiple data sources from physicians, wearables, apps etc – we are down for that!
How do we “print” coins/tokens?
Not all currencies are “mineable”. Bitcoin, built on blockchain, has a proof-of-work algorithm, which means that new bitcoins are created to a so-called mining process (so you cannot just “print more money” you have to solve complex crypto puzzles to validate transactions and build new blocks). However, not all cryptocurrencies are generated through the mining process, they are limited in numbers compared to bitcoins that are constantly generated and regarded as a token or a “seed” that you buy and hope that someday they will grow into a beautiful sequoia (meaning you get a good ROI because of the limited supply).
Even though tokens or altcoins are not minable they all are still trying to solve complex problems, and now thanks to the investments in the healthcare industry that made it one of the most profitable industries in the world (and most complex) we have a proliferate of ICOs in the healthcare segment.
How do we know which of these ICOs are legit and have a valid potential to bring us the return on investment or even “revolutionize healthcare”? We have ICO white papers where the creators are trying to show us their proof of concept and convince us of the future of their solution, then we have a lot of “experts” reviewing and recommending for insane consulting fees, and finally we have a market that is in a “gold rush” state of mind – so there are a lot of beginners that make bad moves with a lot of dollars being invested.
Not all people behind the latest ICOs have solid arguments and business plans, let alone development and implementation capabilities which is why having a good IT partner is crucial if you truly wish to “revolutionize the industry”. Likewise, having an experienced developer and health professional take a look at the available documentation will be the first step when investing would be a good move.
Health Nexus, for example, had an amazing argument that even though blockchain is at its infancy right now and we can not expect hospitals to hire IT guys that would trade in cryptocurrencies, we can still start with the use by giving third-party service providers (that would have traditional commercial agreements with healthcare providers and include use fees as part of those agreements) an easy way to meter cryptocurrency use for their customers.
However, how decentralized is this if again you need to have an intermediary for these transactions? Maybe we are not there yet.
The Present State of Affairs:
At this moment on Cryptoslate you can find 51 cryptocurrencies in the healthcare segment. Unfortunately, not all are worth the “coins”. Most known ones are for example:
1. MedCredits (MEDX) – Connecting patients and doctors worldwide
2. Dentacoin 71 – an Ethereum-based token for dental Industry
3. Medicalchain 332 – Secure health records storage
4. BlockRx ICO – Blockchain for the pharmaceutical industry (that is tackling the opioid crisis in the US)
5. Patientory (PTOY) – Blockchain-secured medical records
We decided to try and segment this list and find out what is most saturated on this list? Pharma? Health records? Networks, or something else? These are the results:
Obviously, new ones are popping up daily, but a trend is visible: health records are the most popular ones right next to various care management and monitoring solutions. We believe more will show up with ideas around Genomics and the overall Marketplace. Most importantly, we are thrilled to see a coin set on a mental health solution and especially hyped for the coin that solves the global nursing shortage.
However what hypes us at Vicert the most when thinking about blockchain in Healthcare?
Health information exchange or the ability to move patient’s high integrity records through various domains and systems is one of the greatest challenges in healthcare. So, we see blockchain as a reliable tracker of those changes and transactions across the system through a secure decentralized and validated system. Or if we use a metaphor stated in various blog posts on this topic – blockchain would be the glue that could stick together the highly fragmented healthcare record.
To finish with a positive enforcement: What makes it even greater is that blockchain is becoming more and more popular with our partner IBM, but also Intel, Google, Microsoft and from lately the Federal government as well – so the future is only bright when thinking about cryptocurrencies in healthcare 🙂
Sofija Drecun is Director of Marketing at digital health tech solutions company Vicert on whose blog this first appeared