How much do you know about your medical identity? You know you’re generally in good health. You know your height and your weight. You know if you have any chronic conditions. But can you remember how many tetanus shots you’ve had? Do you know which percentile your height placed you in for each year of life? Could you tell your doctor the exact amount of time you’ve been taking a prescription medication to the day?
These are the details that make up your “medical identity.” A data scientist would call these details “longitudinal data.” Longitudinal data consists of hundreds of data points that are updated over the course of your life to paint the picture of your health. Each time you go to the doctor’s office, you add data to your longitudinal data set. Medical scribes and your primary care doctor carefully update your file and tuck it away amongst all your records.
But there is a problem with this system. It is slow, cumbersome and practically unsharable. If you change doctors you have to go through length processes to ensure that your records arrive at your new doctor. If disaster strikes and you need your medical records right away, precious time is wasted hunting them down.
The team at Gem, startup based in Venice California, is seeking to apply blockchain thinking to these data issues that are rampant in the healthcare sector. While Gem wishes to expand their process to include blockchain-based problem solving for all industries, they are beginning by tackling the issue of “patient identity” in the healthcare system.
Gem seeks to connect all the disparate arms of the healthcare industry by creating a communal healthcare ecosystem. The key to their system is that they include a heavily patient-driven component. They have partnered with Phillips to begin their work on making patients active contributors and keepers of their medical identity.
Their system works upon a series of nested systems that are all recorded and enforced using the blockchain ledger concept. On the patient level, mobile apps can record wellness data (think exercise apps like Strava, or your Apple Health App). Hospitals continue to collect and keep patient clinical records. Insurance companies continue to keep records of their claims. While these systems are now separated, Gem’s system seeks to create an ecosystem where these records can interact.
The theft of healthcare related data has become a pressing issue for insurance companies and other medical enterprises. In December, the firm Quest Enterprises lost 34,000 files of patient data in a hacking attack, including their names, addresses, and phone numbers as well as further longitudinal data. Quest patient systems are relied on by many medical professionals even though their online platform is not encrypted.
Gem’s blockchain application seeks to add security to patient information in two ways. Firstly, “permissioned blockchains” can control who has access to certain sensitive information. Additionally the identity of both parties in blocked, ensuring anonymity for sensitive healthcare data in the event that a hacker infiltrates the system. They can never come away with a way to link patent information to the patient themselves. Additionally, the shared ledger in which every event is timestamped cannot be tampered with. There are thousands of safeguards throughout the system (Gem’s Health Network) which are constantly updated in real time.
Gem’s concept for a healthcare web has gained significant traction. They were rated the second most popular business development of the year by Bitcoin Magazine. They have raised 10.4 million in Series A funding so far and enjoy the support of companies like Capital One and KEC Ventures.