PokitDok, a healthcare software platform provider, has recently introduced a new offering: DokChain, “blockchain for healthcare.” PokitDok envisions DokChain helping usher in a new era of value-based care handled (in the background) primarily by artificial intelligence (AI), rather than Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). This new breed of AI, in the form of “smart contracts,” will reside on DokChain, the company’s secure blockchain-based network. PokitDok’s expanding set of APIs will, in turn, connect all healthcare participants to the AI-rich DokChain and to each other. An impressive initial group of leading technology and healthcare partners, collectively the “DokChain Health Alliance,” has already signed on to lead the effort. And parent PokitDok’s $5M round of funding in March will certainly help fuel DokChain’s development for the remainder of 2017.
The vision of DokChain
DokChain made its formal debut on September 27th, 2016 at the Health 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, California. According to PokitDok Co-founder and CEO Lisa Maki, the introduction of blockchain in general (and DokChain in particular) into the healthcare system is part of the shift to value-based care. Maki argues that as the shift progresses, it’s becoming increasing clear that EMRs are no longer the sole repository of healthcare data. As a result, the push toward shared EMRs is at least partly misguided. After all, the EMR cannot capture the complete set of important events contributing to the patient’s overall “episode of care.” However, “smart contracts” can. These digital contracts, also known as “self-executing contracts” or “blockchain contracts” are a new breed of artificial intelligence (AI). Roughly speaking, smart contracts serve as ultra-efficient legal agents that can create, store and enforce contracts supporting the exchange of various forms of value (e.g. property, stock, money, etc.) on the blockchain in real-time. Accordingly, smart contracts, rather than the EMR, according to Maki, will emerge as the central medium for handling healthcare data in the future.
The role of DokChain
CEO Maki envisions DokChain connecting all endpoints (participants and stakeholders) in the healthcare ecosystem into a single secure blockchain network. These endpoints will not only include EMRs, but devices such as heart monitors. After pulling in data from all the endpoints participating in a given “episode of care,” DokChain records it, while handling permissions through “access grants” that DokChain “maintains and verifies.” The result is a distributed network of secure, richly organized healthcare data for stakeholders to track and share.
The role of PokitDok
According to Maki, although DokChain will serve as the blockchain network itself, PokitDok will provide the APIs connecting all of the following endpoints to the network and its “smart contract services”:
- Thirty party applications (more than 4,000).
- Insurance companies (more than 500).
- “[A]ll registered healthcare providers.”
Use case: Insurance benefit check
On stage at the Health 2.0 conference, Maki walked the audience through four steps in a typical use case—running a check to determine if one’s health insurance will cover a knee examination:
- The PokitDok Eligibility API calls a smart contract on the DokChain that handles eligibility.
- The smart contract verifies that the requester has permission to access the health insurance benefit data.
- The smart contract requests the benefit data from the health insurance provider, in this case Cigna.
- Cigna returns the benefits data “in less than a second.”
Maki emphasizes that the benefits data itself is not stored on the DokChain, but rather in the secure PokitDok Platform. What is stored on DokChain are “access grants” to the benefits data, along with a complete record of the transaction that participants can access and share, subject to their permissions.
DokChain has announced an impressive list of initial partners:
- GE Healthcare
- Adventist Healthcare
- The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System
This group, along with others, are joining forces in the DokChain Health Alliance (initially called “the Blockchain Alliance,” but later renamed) which Maki boldly claims will “ultimately define the future of blockchain in our industry.”
In March, 2017, GIS Strategic Ventures (of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America) announced an investment of $5M in PokitDok. The company plans to use the funds not only to further develop DokChain, but to expand their existing API service.
The investment round brings PokitDok’s total fundraising to date to $48M.
Overall, DokChain is off to a strong start. It has set a clear strategic goal for itself of becoming the AI-run blockchain network for the era of value-based care; it has established a path to integration with the wealth of APIs that its parent company continues to expand; it has landed an impressive set of initial partners with the DokChain Health Alliance; and it has attracted ample funding, alongside parent PokitDok, with March’s $5M round. Although there are other ambitious contenders, such as Gem Health, vying to become “the blockchain of healthcare,” DokChain has come out of the gate with a lot of promise.
- Developer Blog: fullmetalhealth.com
Brennan is a blockchain technical adviser in the healthcare sector and blockchain entrepreneur who has worked on developing proprietary concepts for both artificial intelligence and enterprise blockchain. He is a graduate of Rutgers University School of Health Professions where he earned a M.S. in biomedical informatics.