Top Ten Medical Blockchain Projects
Blockchain technology has been described as a miracle. The ability to encode, share, and transmit data without the need of a third party presents possibilities in data use that were once thought impossible outside the enterprise level. For both consumers and businesses, distributed ledgers provide the opportunity to treat data as an asset, the same as money or a commodity.
For the medical industry, this offers the potential for new ways to collaborate, to share information, and to provide care. Patients could have more control of their data, doctors and hospitals can improve their communication processes, and researchers can utilize disparate data sets – all at significant monetary and labor savings. This leads to better care at a lower cost for all.
This article will look at ten blockchain projects in the medical sphere. These projects show how innovators are using distributed ledger technology to improve the general health in a wide array of ways.
There was once a time when the thought of being able to read your own DNA was purely science fiction. With there being more than six billion base-pairs in human DNA and with the difference between one human and another accompanying less than 0.1 percent of those pairs, the challenge of mapping the genetic identity of a single person took fifteen years and billions of dollars to complete.
Today, mapping the 23 chromosomes pairs is radically easier. A 2017 proposal for a sequencing machine from Illumina suggests that full sequencing of an individual’s genome could be done in about an hour today for about $100. Such knowledge will make it easy for an individual to make informed decisions about his/her health, to understand genetic risks to future offspring, to better comprehend cancer and metabolic disease risks, and to give doctors more information to better diagnose their patients.
With DNA testing already being popular and accepted in the popular imagination because of firms like 23andMe and AncestryDNA, the prospects of complete personal DNA sequencing will likely skyrocket once it is introduced publicly. The question is who will own all of this information?
Since it became known that researchers at John Hopkins used cells from tobacco farmer Henrietta Lacks – without her or her family’s permission – to further cancer research, the question of consent and patient rights have been an open question. As the law does not extend ownership right to bodily samples once they are outside the body, control of one genome data could be contentious – especially if science or commerce dictate that there is value in it.
Nebula Genomics seek to fix this. Allowing personal genomes to be saved and cryptologically-protected without the need of a middle man, a person’s DNA information would be available to genealogical researchers, doctors, and other interested parties at the patient’s discretion. Without a third party, the possibility of the information being sold explicitly or being lost due to equipment failure or close of business evaporates.
“Nebula Genomics will leverage blockchain technology to eliminate the middleman and empower people to own their personal genomic data,” Nebula Genetics said on its webpage. “This will effectively lower sequencing costs and enhance data privacy, resulting in growth of genomic data. Our open protocol will leverage the genomic data growth by enabling data buyers to efficiently aggregate standardized data from many individuals and genomic databanks.”
Imagine this: your four-years old has come down with a strange rash. Your pediatrician has never seen it before and the endless number of specialists you have seen have not been able to give any relief. The conflicting symptoms observed in the child have led to a number of false diagnosis and a few close calls at making the situation much worse. The situation has grown even more acute when your child temporarily fell into a coma, making the need to find a solution that more desperate.
What would you do? What if you found out that there is a growing community of kids that suffered from the same symptoms. If there was a way to get everybody together to compare notes, a pattern may be found that could lead to an effective treatment plan.
Doc.AI seeks to bring the power of blockchain to this problem. “Our mission is to accelerate the transformation of healthcare with the power of machine intelligence to enable anyone to live a better and uncluttered life while helping the human race one step forward,” the Doc.AI website reads.
“We are an AI company with the mission to decentralize precision medicine onto the blockchain. We believe that in the near future, human biological profile will be consumer-controlled, blockchain-based, AI-powered and omics-data-centric. It will be algorithmic rather than symptomatic, bottom up rather than top down, quantitative rather than qualitative.”
Doc.AI works by allowing individuals to create “data trials,” In these “data trials,” individuals can share relevant information about a problem that the trial is seeking to fix. In exchange for participating, participants can earn a token. Once enough data has been gathered, this information will be made available to data scientist, who would compete towards finding the predicative model that best addresses the problem presented. The data scientist gets a financial reward, the participants get answers, and everyone get access to a new way to use collective thought and AI to help solve the largest medical problems in existence today.
“If you’ve never had a serious health issue you may be unaware of the 30 million people in the US with undiagnosed diseases. You may also be unaware that the third leading cause of death in the US is medical errors,” Doc.AI wrote on its Medium blog. “For those who are critically or chronically ill, exorbitant medical bills add to their stress. In fact, the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the US is not rampant credit card spending or housing debt — it’s medical bills. The healthcare system has not only become unfixable but it is leaving people making unhealthy choices and turning people into medical and financial refugees.”
“The idea of providing people with the ability to have control over their medical assets, and scientists the ability to solve pressing medical problems at scale might be possible because of the convergence of precision medicine (or multi-omics data approach), AI and blockchain. One important aspect of our platform is that individuals are in control of their data, they decide when to share by participating in a data trial via an explicit opt-in, and the data is de-identified for data scientists to build predictive models.”
A headache many young professionals must endure happens when they get word that they just got a job that will require a move. In the fuss of changing accounts, one will need to not only find new doctors in their new hometown, but also arrange for the medical records to be transferred.
Even for non-transitory workers, the headache of sharing medical records between doctors and specialists could be a hassle. You may have specialists that need to know more about your general health to make a thorough diagnosis, but cannot without your direct intervention and reams of paperwork.
Iryo seeks to create a blockchain-based clearinghouse that would make the secure storage of medical records – despite the format – a simple matter. Patients can share their data with anyone anywhere in the world without the need of a middle-man.
“Patient health records are considered one of the most sensitive kinds of personal information. Should personal health data leak, it could be used to defame an individual’s reputation, jeopardize employment options, influence insurance premiums, or used as a marketing tool – all potentially exploiting an individual’s health status,” the Iryo whitepaper reads.
“However, there is little doubt that having medical data readily available to appropriate institutions globally can have major medical benefits. Access to this data can avoid unnecessary medical complications that arise due to incomplete patient medical history. Currently, many research artificial intelligence platforms are exploring ways to access patient data to improve the understanding of conditions, in order to formulate algorithms for early detection of diseases and develop new treatments.”
Iryo is currently in private presale in its ICO.
In 2017, the English National Health Service – one of the world’s largest government-paid healthcare systems – was hit with the “WannaCry” ransomware, a wide-spreading cyberattack thought to be built using tools developed by the U.S. NSA. Encrypting all files on a computer – making it impossible to access the system – the malware demands a payment via bitcoin for the safe release of the computer. Failure to comply may result in a larger ransom or the deletion of all encrypted files. WannaCry is a Windows exploit; the exploit was resolved via a patch in March 2017.
A form of WannaCry – Wanna Decryptor – affected NHS hospitals and surgeries throughout England and Scotland, making it impossible to use the telephones, scheduling systems, and medical record system. In affected areas, medical care was limited to just emergency care only.
A possible solution around the persistent threat of hacks is blockchain. Patientory offers a means for patients, hospitals, and doctors to securely store records online in a shared distributed ledger. “Patientory empowers patients, clinicians and healthcare organizations to safely access, store and transfer information, thus improving care coordination while ensuring data security,” the Patientory webpage reads. “Patientory interconnects with any EHR system and enables doctors, care providers and consumers to communicate on a single easy to use platform. We also connect consumers to connect with the larger community.”
By keeping records available on a blockchain, records can be easily shared between patients and providers, appointments and messages can be delivered, and essential data can be downloaded – all from one portal. This offers portability of information that allows for quick, informed decisions and for transparency between all partners.
“Blockchain technology has been used successfully in the financial services industry. It is the most secure way of preventing your patients’ sensitive health information from cyber attacks. The blockchain patient medical record files are shredded and encrypted and spread across the blockchain network until you’re ready to use it again, making data breaches nearly impossible.”
“Patients, providers and healthcare organizations urgently need secure, scalable, cost-effective population health management solution that empowers patients and improves care coordination while ensuring data security. “
Patientory is not the only one seeking to get into the healthcare data business. The Estonian company Guardtime seeks to use blockchain technology to encrypt and protect patient records. Unlike Patientory, however, Guardtime has serious governmental backers.
In March 2017, the country of Estonia’s eHealth Authority agreed to use Guardtime to secure the health records of over a million patients. In January 2018, Guardtime entered a business-to-business deal with a private healthcare provider in the United Arab Emirates to bring blockchain patient record maintenance to the country.
“If Google organizes the world’s information and makes it universally available then Guardtime validates that information and makes it universally reliable,” the Guardtime website reads.
Currently in operation, Guardtime has been made available to up to 30 million NHS patients. The platform is estimated to save at least 800 million pounds in savings in the United Kingdom. Not limited to medical records alone, Verizon has partnered with Guardtime to provide the Guardtime platform as a platform-as-a-service to its large business customers.
“Increasingly, our enterprise customers want to effectively leverage blockchain to meet the security demands from their customers,” Alex Schlager, executive director for security services at Verizon Enterprise Solutions, told Guardtime. “They are looking for proven, reliable solutions and Verizon is recognized as a market leader in managed security services. Combining our security expertise with Guardtime’s blockchain platform offers customers an advanced solution.”
The Guardtime platform has been used to streamline the marine commercial insurance industry, to fight copyright violations and online advertising fraud in China, and to protect voter registries here in the United States. In partnership with SICPA, Guardtime is developing a platform that will offer real-time intrusion detection, indisputable tamper evidence, increased transparency, and an immutable registration record system for state and local election officials.
“We launched the company in 2007 with the goal of creating a formally verifiable security system for the Estonian Government i.e. eliminating third parties, trusted insiders or cryptographic keys in the verification of the integrity of government records, networks and systems,” Guardtime wrote. “Cryptography like mathematics starts off with assumptions (axioms) and from those assumptions derives conclusions. The goal was to eliminate humans from the list of assumptions needed to make assertions about the time and integrity of digital records – documents in a government registry – configuration files in a network router – software running inside an IOT device etc.”
“The challenge was not cryptography but engineering, building a scalable and reliable service for the government that would continue to function even under constant cyber-attack. We succeeded.”
One of the key functions of blockchain technology is the ability to bring together disparate data sources in a way to encourage or promote collaboration. For example, before blockchain technology, a cross-database search would require either establishing a connection to the servers involved and the writing of a custom SQL query that addressed the different databases’ formats and data structure or downloading a large data set and going through the process of “cleaning it up” or forcing the data into a format that is compatible with your local format. Such efforts take time and specialized data scientists and computer programmers to pull off successfully; in an industry like healthcare, where time can means lives, this process would be more effective if results can be found quicker with less effort.
Gem is a cryptocurrency, pure and simple. While the point of this article is not to promote coin platforms, Gem is different in the sense of how it works. Gem is designed to give investors all-on-one desktop access of their crypto investments. Via its blockchain-to-blockchain data migration technology, the app can offer a universal wallet, discovery of new tokens and dapps, and connections to the larger crypto community, in an attempt to simplify the investment process.
Using the same technology, the healthcare industry can connect siloed datasets in a way to make it easier to make predictive models and manage community health data. For example, Gem has partnered with tech service supplier Tieto and health service provider Philips to help the US Center of Disease Control and Prevention to help with the management of data relevant to disaster response.
“I believe that every person on this planet is valuable. The technological revolution of the past two decades has resulted in massive improvements in people’s lives,” Micah Winkelspecht, CEO of Gem, wrote. “But it has also resulted in a huge shift in the economy and the elimination of entire industries, and with it, jobs. But in the decentralized movement evolving rapidly today, everyone has something to contribute to their larger community. Today, as we stand on the cusp of the New Economy, we have an opportunity to reshape how value is captured, shared and exchanged so that it rewards the people creating that value, and not institutions and their middlemen. That’s what this decentralized movement is about. In the New Economy, everyone is a Gem.”
Imagine this: your child has been identified for a rare immunodeficiency. The disease has been taxing on your family and typically requires regular hospital stays, lengthy batteries of blood tests, and a wide array of test medications. One day, your doctor announced that there is a new medicine that has have runaway success in cases lie your child nationwide. The medicine is expensive and in short supply, but if it works, it would mean a significant improvement in your and your child’s quality of life.
The day of the injection comes and your doctor calls to break the bad news: the medicine did not arrive. The doctor calls the pharmaceutical provider to learn that there was a supply chain bottleneck with the producer, with several batches of the medicine being wasted. One of the wasted vials belong to your child. There is no deadline for when the replacement vials will be shipped. In the meanwhile, your child is left to suffer.
Taking the approach Wal-Mart and other retailers have taken to control their supply chains, Chronicled is creating a blockchain solution for component procurement to final product delivery tracking for the pharmaceutical industry. Being able to track a product throughout its entire life means that quality can be assured, manufacturing problems can be traced to their source, and counterfeit drugs can be easier to spot. By simplifying logistics and minimizing discrepancies, this creates a cost savings that could show up in the price to the consumer.
Via its Internet of Things technology, Chronicled can keep track of products in three ways. Using a NFC Identity Inlay, a product can be tracked and confirmed via its unique physical identifier, which connects to registry connectors on the Chronicled blockchain. Via CryptoSeal, package openings are recorded to the blockchain in real-time, creating instant theft detection. NFC Temperature Logger detects the temperature of packages using a smart sensor, allowing for temperature-controlled drugs to be safely stored and for dangerous temperature drops to be detected immediately.
“Today, a company sees all their own incoming and outgoing transactions. But they can’t see all of the transactions taking place along the supply chain,” Chronicled wrote in a blog post. “If a supplier discovers where a company downstream is selling their products, they could potentially design a supply chain around that downstream company. They might develop a model that makes them irrelevant. In the pharma industry, there’s a new regulation (the DSCSA) that is requiring the entire supply chain share data on an interoperable system. But not every industry has such regulations and rules that can align them. The challenge lies in getting many different parties to come together and agree to use the same network.”
“And radical data transparency just isn’t the best way to make that happen. So, businesses still want data privacy, potentially more so than they want to eliminate diversion and other unpleasantness in their supply chains. That’s why at Chronicled we have created a system that enables both appropriate data privacy and “visibility” into the chain of custody. Using zero-knowledge proofs called zk-SNARKS, Chronicled came up with the MediLedger Project — a blockchain-based data privacy solution for the pharmaceutical supply chain.”
Another patient data storage platform, Coral Health seeks to simplify the data sharing process between stakeholders. Doing so would simplify the drug discovery and public health research process. A young startup, Coral Health launched a demo for its platform on February with the ability for patients to choose who can have access to them.
“It is well known that in traditional healthcare delivery models, providers, laboratories, payers (i.e. insurance companies) and drug companies all store patient data in disparate formats and there is no standardization of record keeping,” the Coral Health whitepaper reads. “This has led to data breaches and the disarray we see today in health records exchange. Poor data sharing infrastructure has also been impeding the progress of drug discovery and public health research. Efforts to address this problem have largely focused on forcing the entire ecosystem to adopt a new, shared standard. These attempts have been unsuccessful because they’ve been quickly rebuffed by regulation, lobbying and patient apathy.”
“Coral Health’s key differentiator in its expansion plan is that it targets small and readily addressable components of the health data domain, rather than attempting to create an immediate panacea. For example, it will cater to payers’ incentives for quicker claims processing by allowing them to use smart contracts to automatically make prior authorization decisions. In this incremental fashion, Coral Health will create efficiencies in small but multiple parts of the current health data landscape, steadily moving towards its broader objective.”
Yet another patient data storage platform, Medicalchain allows the patient-driven dissemination of medical data to doctors, laboratories, pharmacists, and other stakeholders. While this seems to make MedicalChain another voice in a growingly crowded chorus, MedicalChain differentiates itself in two ways.
First, MedicalChain offers support for telemedicine or teleconferencing between patients and doctors. This allows patients without direct access to medical care to not only talk to a doctor, but to also share his/her medical data using the same application. Second, MedicalChain allows developers to build dapps on its platform, allowing for the design for medication management solutions, wearables-interacting apps, dietary-advice apps, and other healthcare solutions.
“Medicalchain will enable users to give conditional access to different healthcare agents such as doctors, hospitals, laboratories, pharmacists and insurers to interact as they see fit,” the MedicalChain whitepaper reads. “Each interaction with their medical data is auditable, transparent and secure, and will be recorded as a transaction on Medicalchain’s distributed ledger. During this process, the patient’s privacy is protected at all times. Medicalchain is built on the permission-based Hyperledger Fabric architecture which allows varying access levels; users control who can view their records, how much they see and for what length of time.”
“By empowering users, we can build the future of healthcare together. Medicalchain will be a platform for other digital health applications to develop on; users will be able to sign for these applications and services which are powered by their health data and secured by smart contracts. Medicalchain is currently developing two applications to work alongside the platform: a doctor-to-patient telemedicine application and a health data marketplace.”
The possibility of a medical dapp platform allow medical providers to design the solutions that work best for them, with the ability to maintain ownership of proprietary data and processes.
EncrypGen, unlike other genetic data storage platforms, offers a solution that is radically different than others presented in this guide. EncrypGen wants to make it easier to sell your DNA information to researchers, instead of harder.
The company seeks to develop a blockchain platform that would anonymize DNA data and package it in a way that it can be shared at the donor’s discretion without a third party. While this can be a boon to those in the market for genetic research material, this presents serious ethical issues.
“With the debate about gene patenting settled by courts banning most patents on naturally-occurring genes, questions about gene ownership needed to be resolved,” David Koepsell, founder on EncrypGen, wrote. “This time, instead of waiting for public policy to catch up, we decided to make something that creates, tracks, and resolves questions of custody and payment and that makes science and commerce less risky: The Gene-Chain was born.”
Seeking to build the “Amazon of genetic material,” questions about ownership of one’s genetic information is a relevant concern. However, many experts believe that simply stripping personally-identifiable data from a genetics profile is not enough to ensure the privacy of the donor. This leaves donors subject to privacy invasion without a legal recourse.
DNA can crudely be described as the recipe to make you. It is from where all of the RNA used to make the protein chains need to construct and regulate all of the tissues in a being are sequenced. As a person’s DNA is unique to the person, the DNA data itself is personally-identifiable information. A large enough DNA database can possibly be used to point a genome to a specific person.
It was found, for example, that 97 percent of all genome donors that submitted anonymized genetic profiles to the Personal Genome Project could be identified from their genetic details. As genetic profiles include zip codes (for environmental impact profiling), ages, and genders, all the researchers really needed for the match was a voters list.
Second, selling genetic information invites fraud. A dishonest donor can claim a rare disease to raise the price of his genetic profile. Without a way to vet donors beforehand, this possibility would make the donation process ready for abuse; however, providing vetting information, such as information from a medical record, would effectively de-anonymize the profile.
While EncrypGen offers more control of one’s medical information than any other platform presented on this guide, it also opens the deepest can of ethical and legal quandaries that must be addressed before the platform can go public.