On October 20, the residents of Yucatan and Quintana Roo in Mexico witnessed free telemedicine and telepsychology services for the first time ever. “It’s wonderful, because something that is good and free is rarely seen,” said one resident. “Many of us have the need and unfortunately we don’t have the resources to be able to make the consultations and even less with specialists.”
This is a new service given by the two-years-old startup doc.com, who has already served over 100,000 users in 20 Latin American countries and has recently opened an office in Florida. But what do they offer in exchange? Personal healthcare data.
In one of my earlier articles, I wrote about Shiru Café offered Brown University students “free” coffee in exchange for their names, emails, phone numbers and majors – and many very happy to trade that info. Doc.com is touching something far more important – not just for the patients but also for governments and the private industry.
In countries like Mexico, where the poverty line is close to 42%, public healthcare is bad and people have to wait hours in line to get treatment, this is considered a luxury. In fact, doc.com even pays the patients in its own coins when they share information such as their blood type and other personal characteristics.
“We provide government entities real-time data and analytics products where they can monitor their population in real time and send targeted messages to certain patients. This service enables the governments to react faster to public health emergencies and improve their public health strategy,” explained Charles Nader, the CEO of doc.com. “Likewise, for the private healthcare industry, we provide data analytics products that enable companies to see what prescription medications are being prescribed or what pathologies are happening in certain regions. This helps them with their sales strategies.”
The value of your data
Thanks to Facebook and its data breach scandals, we are now much more aware and careful of how our private data is being used. Healthcare data is particularly important. In fact, hardly a single day goes by without healthcare hacks hitting the news.
Healthcare data is the considered the “cash cow” of the hacker world, as each individual healthcare profile is worth 10 to 20 of times morethan credit card information. When a credit card is stolen, the owner is able to cancel it or even dispute the charges. But, it’s a different story with medical records.
Medical records may contain a patient’s name, birth date, policy number, diagnosis codes, billing information, home address, social security number and medical history. Some records even contained nude photos of the patients, which hackers could use for blackmailing if they were stolen.
Many times, medical identity theft takes years to uncover, long after the hacker has misused it for an array of malicious purposes: from creating fake IDs for buying and reselling expensive drugs and medical equipment, to filing fictional claims with insurance companies to get money in return. They can also impersonate their victims to obtain free healthcare services. These attacks cost healthcare companies and hospitals a whopping $6 billion per year.
For these reasons, it makes sense that doc.com stores this information on the blockchain as it makes data access more transparent and secure. We now have a system where the patients can monetize on their data, not the hackers.
Blockchain for healthcare
As Dr. Wookyun Kho, Co-Founder and CEO of MediBloc explains, having blockchain-based Patient Health Records “enables individual patients to manage PHR on their own.” MediBloc is an open-source patient data platform, which lets patients store their PHRs on their smartphones. “Think of two systems; one with 10,000 or more patient data in a single location and the other with only one patient data. Those two vary greatly in terms of security requirements, the complexity of the system, and amount of damage in case of cyber attacks and it is only natural for the latter to have a higher level of security.”
However, security is just one of the benefits of blockchain – the other benefit is accessibility. PHR systems are traditionally fragmented across institutions, making it difficult to provide appropriate healthcare services to patients based on their individual patient data. This includes an array of service providers: from research institutions, medical practitioners, doctors and hospitals to private companies and individuals using a proprietary digital interface layer.
With platforms such as MediBloc, patients have sovereignty over their medical data, and they are the only ones in charge of choosing who can access their data. Blockchain makes PHRs patient-centric, reducing duplications in work, tests and results, which leads to decreased costs and inefficiencies.
Will it succeed?
It is no secret that bitcoin has crashed. For those involved merely with the speculation perspective of blockchain and crypto projects, now is the time to flee from the industry. But on the other hand, now is the time where real projects with real use cases for blockchain can surface.
Fortnite became a giant with its free model. Wal-Mart became a profitable giant in a losing industry because it “helped people save money so they could live better.” It seems like we love free or cost-effective services. It remains to be seen how a model that paid off greatly in the gaming and retail industry, pays off in the healthcare industry.