“In Blockchain We Trust:” The New Healthcare Mantra

medical equipment

The need for medical attention can be a time of great vulnerability and uncertainty. With this often come lapses of care, billing issues, and other health care experiences that only serve to heighten one’s anxiety.

Ultimately what we’re talking about here is trust. In other words, who can we reliably turn to when it comes to our health, wellbeing and personal information during these times of need.

Blockchain and the New Provenance of Trust

Today Blockchain offers a new narrative around the provenance of trust in the delivery of health care. Through this technology, growing numbers of stakeholders are making major strides in solving prevailing problems around the overall care management experience. These advancements are accelerating rapidly and show great promise for the future.

Blockchain’s value proposition included the ability to deliver a network ecosystem that can disrupt existing market structures fostering transparency, efficiency, and fairness. It can also eliminate unnecessary intermediaries, boost privacy,  and provide an onramp for new solutions around, interoperability, digital identity, payments, and disease prediction.

The Payment System Conundrum

Payment systems with their inherent inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and security vulnerabilities have long been a sore spot for the health care industry.

Enter HealthCombix, a  blockchain development project that is seeking to enable a worldwide, decentralized insurance and healthcare network. Founded by Cyrus Maaghul a former Fidelity Investments Blockchain Incubator Director and successful start-up entrepreneur, the company believes that “privacy is a human right and the foundation of everything they do.”

Says Maaghul: “The goal is to build decentralized insurance applications that make the purchase and sale of insurance more efficient, creating more relevant products, lowering operational costs, and increasing transparency.”  

Asked about the roadmap and trajectory for HealthCombix, Maaghul added this:

“Our premise from the very beginning has been to build alternative health systems from the ground floor up, overlapping with as little of the incumbent system as possible. Now our efforts near term have evolved into more risk sharing and payment related products.”

Maaghul believes that someday, elements like confidentiality, interoperability, consent management, identity, and payments – will all be situated on blockchains and distributed networks that can interact with each other.

“Instead of everything being built on top of one stack or network, we are seeking to carefully identify over time the appropriate protocol and network for each capability as the foundation of a new healthcare system.”

These developments come at a time where trust in the health care landscape has become increasingly complicated by major market players like Google, Apple, and Amazon, thereby fostering an environment of data hoarding.   These digital silos are seen as a significant risk to consumer and patient data privacy.

“This entry of non-healthcare companies into the healthcare fray has validated our thinking as the the lines between risk sharing and digital apps are blurring,” says Maaghul.

Ultimately the intent, he says, is to work with independent providers, those who are outside of the existing system seeking to build something that’s more provider-centric.

“We are going to work with those in direct care and concierge medicine, independent or freelancer, and build a platform that allows them to onboard their patients directly. We’ll also work with self-insured employers who don’t want to engage with managed care organizations but do want to have an infrastructure in place in lieu of working with the existing systems.”

The Blockchain Trust Architecture

In the book The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust, Kevin Werbach Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business argues that in an era where trust in institutions of all kinds are collapsing, the blockchain offers new hope.

He says that blockchain has led to the launch of hundreds of companies, billions of dollars of investment, and adoption by companies from Walmart to the New York Stock Exchange. Yet a  clarified framework for the space is still needed around governance, regulation, and law to emerge as a true platform of trust.

Michael Marchant, Health Information Exchange and Integration Director for UC Davis Health says that he is actively working to leverage technology to better connect patients with their health information. As the point person for blockchain related issues for this Sacramento area  hospital system,  he laments at how vendors who are directed to him remark “hey, we have this really cool blockchain thing that does this, that or the other.”

In response, Marchant offers this closing thought: “No one cares about the underlying technology when what we’re looking for is what problem will it solve, does it have a use case, and what’s the value proposition. I believe that for blockchain technology to gain any traction, least in an organization like U.C. Davis, no one is really looking at it as a technology. All we want to know is whether it will deliver a trusted, proven solution for a particular problem we’re facing.”