Founded in 2014, PointNurse is a telemedicine provider and “global virtual care community.” PointNurse employs blockchain technology to give “care credits” to nurses, doctors and other participating healthcare professionals toward profit sharing and potential equity in the company, based on activity and performance.
PointNurse: blockchain enabled telemedicine using “care credits”
The uniqueness of the PointNurse model lies in the company’s “member-owner program.” The top-performing, most proactive nurses, doctors and other healthcare providers in the PointNurse community will not only earn income from their “virtual visits” with patients, but will have the opportunity to participate in profit-sharing while accumulating credits toward equity in the company. These “care credits” are blockchain-based tokens that providers earn for several “markers” of participation, including:
- Hours spent on-call
- New PointNurse members recruited
- Quality of care markers
At the end of the year, PointNurse calculates the total credits for each of its members, which in turn determines their “pro-rata share” of the “community’s profits” for the year. At the same time, PointNurse keeps track of each member’s cumulative lifetime care credits. In the event of a “merger, sale, or IPO,” each member can then redeem their credits for any “pro-rata equity gains” that result.
PointNurse believes that their member-owner program, together with its unique care credits, distinguishes them from conventional, “transactional” telemedicine providers.
The PointNurse mobile app
At the center of the PointNurse offering is the PointNurse app, found at the Apple app store. PointNurse describes the consumer-facing aspect of their app as a convenient way to have a “virtual visit” with a medical professional “from home, work or on the road,” at a cost of one dollar per minute. Furthermore, patients can use the PointNurse site to find nurse practitioners and medical doctors, organized by time zone and state.
The company describes the counterpart provider-facing aspect of their app as a free platform for verified, licensed providers who wish to register to receive “video requests” (whether scheduled or “on-demand”) from new and existing patients. In order to participate, all that a healthcare professional needs is a computer with a working camera, connected to the Internet. And there are no fixed hours. PointNurse aims for “flexibility and freedom,” encouraging participants to work from home on their own schedules.
Connection to HealthCombix
In September of 2016, Alex Danzberger, Senior VP at Unitek, joined the PointNurse advisory board. In addition, he made an investment not only in PointNurse, but HealthCombix, which PointNurse “spun off” at that time. HealthCombix builds distributed, blockchain-based apps that bring together systems “at the nexus of healthcare, pharma and insurance.” In particular, HealthCombix aims to encourage patient support groups by providing patients’ friends and family with “rewards for helping patients reach health goals.” This aspect of their model is similar to PointNurse’s care-credit approach, but aimed primarily at caregivers rather than providers. However, under the HealthCombix model, the patients receive rewards for reaching their goals as well. And rather than redeeming rewards for a share of company profits or equity, patients and caregivers alike can redeem them at participating “food, housing and community outlets.”
Advocates for blockchain in healthcare
Aside from their significance as a standalone startup, the PointNurse team has advocated strongly for bringing blockchain into the healthcare industry in general and the nursing profession in particular. For example, a 2016 post on the PointNurse blog envisions a “decentralized autonomous nursing organization” or “DANO,” that will make full of use of blockchain to disrupt and transform the multi-billion dollar nurse-staffing industry. They have also advocated for “out-of-hospital blockchains.”
Funding and future
PointNurse has yet to emerge from the seed-funding stage, or at least has not yet announced an institutional round of funding. Therefore, they may not have the resources to move toward their goals at the same speed as more high-profile startups in the blockchain healthcare space such as Gem Health and DokChain, both of which have institutionally-backed parent companies (Gem and Pokitdok, respectively). Nonetheless, PointNurse continues to show signs of life as they evolve toward their goals at their own pace. On April 20th, 2017, PointNurse announced that Elaine Comeau, a former executive at Philips Healthcare with a “distinguished career working in telehealth” would become the company’s new CEO. Ms. Comeau’s vision for the company continues to embrace blockchain.
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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.