Blockchain in healthcare updates
The author begins by pointing out how common biospecimens are, the problems with the standard model of housing biospecimens, and suggesting that we need to decentralize all parts of the current system including consent practices, ethics and governance oversight, quality management, logistics, research, and so forth. As part of the solution, they propose the usage of non-fungible tokens to represent specific biospecimens, including the data from the biospecimen, along with information like GPS location, expiration dates, brand, date and time, etc, and tie them to a public/private key combination on a blockchain. The idea, I think, is that the owners of these NFTs can make decisions related to them, such as permitting secondary usage of their biospecimen for research, or sharing the related data.
One problem with this technical approach is public keys are, well, public. Anyone can look at a public key and see the NFTs / transactions associated with it, and if you can tie a real world identity to a public key then you could potentially gleam sensitive information about that person. A potential solution to this would be using zero-knowledge proofs to add additional privacy.
After the space raised $25.7m in the first half of 2019 funding has slowed down somewhat, with $5.7m being invested since then, most of it in Patientory. BlocHealth is a startup that is tackling the woefully inefficient credentialing process.
What I'm reading this weekend
New business models, such as full stack tech-enabled clinical services (meaning the complete delivery of the clinical care made scalable and lower-cost by applying technology), are showing promise.
Marcus points out problems with the current system:
It is full of “closed” money networks that are not interconnected (ACH, European Payments Council, SWIFT, etc) and are often times legacy infrastructure.
The underlying infrastructure introduces limitations that make interoperability difficult because of a lack of an open standard for money a la SMTP.
Moving money today requires a number of intermediaries, introducing delays and costs.
The tl;dr is that Marcus thinks the adoption of a global payments network based on a blockchain would solve this. Of course, he thinks that payments network should be Libra, but his argument holds for any open blockchain based payments network.
I thought this quote was a good summation of something I’ve felt for awhile now:
There are numerous verticals developing within crypto, and it is becoming near impossible to be sufficiently knowledgeable in multiple verticals. Developments are too diverse and progress is happening too quickly for anyone who is dabbling to be sufficiently up to speed.
Substitute “crypto” with “blockchain” and the quote is more applicable. And that’s before you include the deep domain specific knowledge that it takes to build something useful with a blockchain in healthcare, or some other field. As a result people can get away with hand waving or complexity theater.
Telegram is a popular messaging service (I run a discussion group using it!) with a few hundred million users. At the height of crypto mania they raised a cool $1.7 billion dollars to build their own next generation blockchain, launch a token, and integrate it with their messaging app. At the time they raised money Telegram’s plans were widely criticized by high profile community members as unreasonable. If they are able to live up to their prior claims they will have made several rather significant technical advances, but as of now, we haven’t seen any code so it’s hard to tell what they’ve actually made. Moreover, Telegram has millions of users, and so this would instantly create one of the largest blockchain communities in the world. Regardless we should have a high bar for evaluating Telegram’s new technology.
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