Launched in July of 2016, Gem Health is still less than two years old. However, Gem Health’s parent company, Gem, has been a leading enterprise blockchain solutions provider for several years. The goal of Gem Health is to expand Gem’s blockchain solutions to the health sector.
In an April 2016 interview with Bitcoin Magazine, CEO and Founder of Gem, Micah Winkelspecht, explains how Gem Health originated. According to Winkelspecht, healthcare providers and operators began reaching out to Gem with the same data problems. Those problems centered around a systematic inability to share medical data with one another due to locked-up, “siloed data.” Access to medical data was a real problem for patients as well, especially in difficult circumstances, such as the case of falling sick while traveling.
To move toward a solution, Gem began applying its blockchain platform to specific use cases in the health sector. As participants responded positively, the Gem team began to recognize a clear opportunity. It was time to expand their scope beyond “payments and financial applications” with a blockchain solution specifically designed for the healthcare ecosystem. Gem Health was launched with that solution in mind.
Winkelspecht points out that to accomplish Gem Health’s goal, they will need a system centered around the patient. He envisions a time when the era of data silos will be over and a global, secure, blockchain-based network will interconnect the entire healthcare ecosystem. Such a sea change in healthcare data management would finally allow healthcare data to flow freely to wherever it was needed (whether to a provider or a patient) instantly. Moreover, Winkelspecht maintains that the Gem Health blockchain platform has “guaranteed data integrity.” For this reason, participating healthcare providers and patients can place their trust in their shared data repository.
In terms of the engineering itself, the Gem Health system is built on the Ethereum blockchain framework. “Ethereum is trying to build a global computer for general use,” says Winkelspecht. Such a framework translates into the versatility and flexibility the Gem Health blockchain platform will need to adapt and evolve to an ever-changing ecosystem of patients and providers.
In a July 2016 post on his blog, Senior Engineer at Gem, Julian Vergel de Dios, explains that providers know that their patients want personalized healthcare. At the same time, there are two formidable obstacles to providing it: cost and security/privacy concerns. As a result, despite acknowledging the problem, healthcare providers continue to maintain archaic, and at least partly paper-based, systems that can’t talk to one another. On the other hand, with the help of companies like Gem Health, providers could soon invest in an affordable, shared blockchain-based infrastructure that allows them to share data freely, instantly and securely. In doing so, they will be giving their patients the personalized care they’re looking for while maintaining the privacy and security they expect. The process would also save money that providers could then use to hire more staff and provide still better care to their patients.
Thus far, Gem Health has announced only one public partner, but it’s a giant: Philips Healthcare, with 37,000 employees generating 42% of parent Royal Philips’ global revenue. That’s an impressive first partner for any health startup. Nonetheless, CEO Winkelspecht emphasizes that they are still working through the proof-of-concept stage. Their focus remains on small pilot programs that apply to specific use cases involving “small groups working together.” At the same time, the long-term vision remains a universal, blockchain-based platform that will steadily emerge from these initial use cases and proof-of-concept projects to encompass the greater healthcare ecosystem as a whole.
With respect to the competitive landscape that Gem Health faces, it’s important to recognize that they are not a standalone startup. Rather, they are part of the Gem family, and this could prove to be a genuine asset. In January of 2016, less than four months before the launch of Gem Health, Gem raised $7.1M in Series A funding. It’s reasonable to assume that a significant percentage of this funding round has been fueling Gem Health’s projects. For this reason, and many others noted above, Gem Health is certainly one of the top health startups in the blockchain space to track in the coming months and years.
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