Can Blockchain Transform the Healthcare System?

“Yes, with a little help from Artificial Intelligence” says Quang-Vu Dang, who has 19 years of healthcare and administration experience. Most of us understand that eating local organic food, exercising, and having some sort of stress-release practice in our lives are the most important thing we can do for good health. However, nobody can refute the importance of technology in our quest to understand healing and well-being. United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Number 3 is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all. Last month experts presented on multiple panels hosted by the Future of Humanity at the United Nations in New York and the topic of blockchain found its’ way into almost every discussion. Let’s explore why.

Blockchain allows for a revolution in the way humans do transactions by allowing peer-to-peer, decentralized networks to flourish. This technology is being applied to everything from voting to currencies, and now healthcare. In traditional transactions each middle-man imposes a toll or tax along the value chain which is passed to the consumer. Blockchain is an encrypted, secure way to do business while cutting out the middle-man thus reducing cost. So it is only natural that this technology will be applied to the soaring costs and disparate data around healthcare worldwide.

Quan-Vu Dang speaks at the United Nations in New York
Quan-Vu Dang speaks at the United Nations in New York

Health within our bodies comes from having a balanced internal ecosystem. The cardio-vascular, immune, nervous, and other systems need to communicate with each other, they need to integrate information and work harmoniously to keep our bodies functioning and healthy. The same is true within social and economic systems. Centralized banking and government can be very beneficial, but when bottlenecks happen in the flow of information, when corruption seeps in, when too many middle-men are collecting tolls and taxes, the system begins to break down. This analogy exemplifies why blockchain is being hailed as a potentially life-changing technology solution for many of the issues of our time.

“Cryptographically bound peer-to-peer networks (henceforth called “crypto” for short) are going to be one of the defining technologies of our lifetimes. They enable fundamentally new forms of social organization.” -Kyle Samani, How Crypto Will Reshape Capitalism As We Know It

Universal Health Artificial Intelligence is the concept of applying blockchain technology and sensibility to healthcare. Quan-Vu Dang is one of the visionaries behind this concept. He describes UHAI as a “security first, privacy first highly decentralized platform that processes, stores and unifies electronic medical information on the blockchain where machine learning algorithms are used to detect anomalies and predict health outcomes for all participants on the network.” He was inspired to pursue this after having a close friend be diagnosed with stage 4 terminal lung cancer which could have been easily detected had he not been misdiagnosed early-on.

"Data is captured on every aspect of the health care process but accessing and understanding it is almost nonexistent. Hospital CEOs have a challenge accessing and using data to make decisions. Larger, more sophisticated hospital systems are using data for predictive analytics, which is used to make pioneering decisions to improve health. Smaller hospitals and health systems lack the sophistication necessary to perform predictive analytics and therefore need access to data simply to increase efficiencies, cut costs, and improve the patient experience. It will be very difficult for any health care entity to manage population health without significant investments in data analytics.” -Wipfli

Doctors are some of the brightest humans but there is no way they can possibly keep up with the immense amount of emerging data, research, and discoveries in healthcare. That’s why Artificial Intelligence can be helpful in organizing and aggregating this information. Rather than wait to be diagnosed with an illness, there are sophisticated predictive algorithms that can help doctors and patients know what to look out for.

There are also technologies that allow patients to be more proactive in understanding their own predispositions to certain illnesses. Robodoctors (complex algorithms) can scan the quality of voice, or photos (for example, to detect skin cancer), or to decipher findings in MRI’s or CT Scans. One app called Face2Gene, developed by the same developers who created Facebook’s facial recognition feature for photos, has shown tremendous promise in diagnosing individuals through facial images. Patients will be able to access these technologies through cell phones and networks built on emerging blockchain technologies. Imagine a small rural village in a developing nation having instantaneous access through internet or mobile phone to a global, real-time database of healthcare information!

"Face2Gene takes advantage of the fact that so many genetic conditions have a tell-tale “face”—a unique constellation of features that can provide clues to a potential diagnosis. It is just one of several new technologies taking advantage of how quickly modern computers can analyze, sort, and find patterns across huge reams of data.” -Megan Molteni, Wired Magazine

Platform participants will be incentivized with UHAI tokens for sharing their personal information which will go into a global database where data is turned into actionable information. This will help doctors everywhere. The system is a hybrid of private and public with individuals information kept anonymous but also accessible as a case study. Health information will be unhindered or distorted by “middle men”, aggregated on the blockchain and deciphered through Artificial Learning Algorithms. They will also be easily accessible to doctors and patients alike through computer applications and mobile devices. This is a paradigm shift from making diagnostic (you already have the condition) to predicting diagnostic (you don’t have it yet, but your chance of developing is 90 percent).

“The UHAI platform ingests data, propagates date across decentralized nodes, and uses the compute power of these nodes to process machine learning algorithms to discover commonalities amongst the data to make predictions. Once the AI has been trained, network participants can use the open platform to receive medical diagnosis by inputting text, audio, and video.” -UHAI

Features of the platform according Quan-Vu and his team include:

  • Accessibility Through Mobile App: A mobile application that syncs with UHAI platform to allow for up-to-date information of the participant. Individuals gains access to the most powerful healthcare learning AI to monitor his health status.
  • Superior Medical Predictions Through Continuous Learning The AI will evaluate each new entry into the system and update previous results with new, enhanced learning. This means that the system is always improving through curating millions of records and billions of data points. This will help reduce medical diagnosis errors and save many lives.
  • Always Available The system is designed from the ground up to be scaleable with nodes spanning the world and across jurisdictions, and with redundant back-ups. There is no central point of failure. The system is always operating, always available.
  • Reduce Waste and Redundancies It is estimated that one out of every three dollars in healthcare is wasteful and unnecessary. With data stored on the blockchain, all past visits and procedures are recorded and readily available. Unnecessary medical orders are unnecessary.
  • Co-Existence With Healthcare Providers There is always a need for hands on care. The platform can co-exist with physicians to provide probabilistic determination of additional diagnostics to support physicians output. This allows for higher panel count while increasing quality. And best of all, the platform will provide additional layer of protection from litigations.

None of these technologies will replace the need for good doctors nor will they substitute for our responsibility to live a healthy lifestyle. There is clearly a psychological and emotional component to living disease-free as noted in the field of Psychoneuroimmunology or in recent experiments with placebos that had a high success rate of alleviating pain. This should inspire us to create a daily stress-reduction practice, exercise, while maintaining a healthy diet of food and media intake. The media we ingest on a daily basis also has a profound effect on our beliefs, mood, and immune system so remember to balance your intake of depressing news with inspirational, uplifting, solutions-oriented content. The epigenetic research of evolutionary-biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton has actually shown that, yes, our beliefs shape our health on a genetic level.

Much of this technology has been around, some of it is cutting-edge, but building a global network on the foundation of blockchain and organizing it with AI is completely revolutionary. Blockchain combined with AI allows the information to be completely secure, while allowing a public key and a private key, it is decentralized and distributed which allows for more universal access and lower costs. Just as the IPhone now has more computing power than the computers that first put a man on the moon almost 50 years ago, individuals will now have access to more medical information than the average doctor had in previous years. This emerging technology will certainly revolutionize healthcare and go a long way towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal Number 3 which is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all.

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