John Bass in Tel Aviv

Five Ways Digital Health Will Change Blockchain

I was fortunate to have recently traveled to Tel Aviv for two Hashed Collective Events focused on the Tel Aviv digital health community. These events (a healthcare blockchain meetup hosted by EY and BeWell and the Digitalhealth-Il conference) were an incredible display of the community’s hunger to collaborate and innovate. Hashed Collective does community development events all over the world, and rarely have we seen a crowd as engaged and eager to participate.

Based on the feedback I received from the community present at those two events, I thought it would be a good idea to share my comments from a session with Dr. Benny Zeevi, Managing General Partner at Tel Aviv Venture Partners, on the future of healthcare.

The main question Dr. Zeevi asked was what will healthcare look like in the future? My answer is that it will look “different” in these ways:

1. Our digital health infrastructure will look different. Blockchain creates an opportunity to move trust to the protocol. The result brings the opportunity for re-thinking our value chains and their participants. These market structures can be redesigned with transparency, automation, and new incentive structures. No longer will we be bound by the limitations of fiat currencies, claims rails, and other volume-focused infrastructure. By reducing our dependency on certain kinds of centralized business models, we can free ourselves from the 1980’s-era pipeline business models that dominate healthcare, controlling the flow of assets and data. Decentralized infrastructure that acts as a public utility is being developed by Hashed and others for provider directories, patient identity, payments, supply chain item masters, venture capital, clinical trials, and many other concepts.

2. The way we build applications will look different. Upon shared ledgers we can begin building market- level applications that are generally much more efficient than the applications atop silo’d relational databases we’ve been developing over the last 20 years. This will help reduce the costly infrastructure-bloat that we suffer from today. Meanwhile, phones and chat applications will begin to look more like banks and hospitals that dispense digital therapeutics.

3. Our digital health economies will look different. Blockchain allows us to design new economies, new markets and new exchanges that are specific to health and wellness services. We will begin thinking about information marketplaces and decentralized information exchanges where we used to struggle with things like interoperability and primary source verification. We can custom-build payments solutions that respect value and behavior. These new health and financial service products open the door to innovative insurance and benefits products that are right-sized for consumers. Many markets will be borderless and will use new types of international tokens that represent many different types of tradable, valuable digital assets.

4. The economic actors in the new digital economies will look different. The buy-side and sell-side actors on health marketplaces will evolve. Blockchain’s convergence with IoT is an example. Blockchain allows us to take the fingerprint of a device, register that device, trust the information coming from that device, and give that device a “wallet” that enables it to execute agreements with other actors in a market. So, in addition to traditional consumers and providers, we will see new types of actors emerge in future healthcare transactions.

5. The jobs of the actors in health economies will look different. Blockchain and its convergence with IoT, AI, ML is fracking traditional jobs. Many jobs will begin looking like technology jobs. Some lawyers will need to be software engineers to settle smart contract disputes. Supply chain contract administrators will move to the code. As hospitals decentralize and virtualize, hospital administrators will increasingly need to think of themselves as running distributed technology companies. Venture capital jobs will change as more efficient ICOs and crypto-investing goes mainstream. Even certain types of clinicians will think of themselves more and more as technologist-caregivers or crypto-caregivers.

I began my healthcare technology career with a start-up in the 90’s. At that time, it was impossible to predict the future of the internet. We knew information would flow differently. With blockchain in 2018, it feels similar but potentially much bigger. Instead of information, we are now talking about value moving across markets. Changing the container of how money flows represents a whole new level of possibility.

It’s exciting to be alive at a time when consumer collaboration at scale seems possible. Ultimately it is my hope that these changes can result in a world where consumers and their self-designed communities will be empowered with their own health and their own data. It is my hope that these changes will allow us to recognize our goal of positively influencing patient behavior. It is my hope that blockchain and related technologies represent a shift in the power structure that will help us finally realize a truly individual-centric and community-centric health system.

For more information on how we see the future of healthcare unfolding, please join the global health conversation taking place at https://chat.hashedhealth.com.

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