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You currently don't own or control your electronic medical records (EMRs), healthcare providers do. Israel-based blockchain start-up Proof Work aims to give control over your EMR to you.
The healthcare industry is, in many ways, quite different from several other industries. You have often seen in the other industries that infusion of modern technologies bring the price down for customers. However, that's not quite the case with the healthcare industry always. A new medical diagnosis or treatment can often cost a fortune for the patients. This can be attributed to the massive cost incurred by the innovators or the providers of the new drug or the new diagnostic equipment, who look to recover their expenses. However, something else is also different in the healthcare industry.
While the entire healthcare industry infrastructure has really one key objective, i.e. providing the right treatment to the patient, the patient has actually very limited control over her healthcare. Take the case of a matured market economy like the USA. Healthcare costs are prohibitively high, and hence health insurance is practically a must-have for anyone needing medical treatment. Typically the employer pays a large part of the insurance premium, and insurance companies sell group plans to the employer insuring all employees of that organization. To keep the number of claims, and the amount within them, down as far as possible, the health insurance companies devise multiple ways, for e.g. building a network of providers that the patient will visit in case medical treatment is needed, proactive outreach to the patients so that they follow their health regime, etc. The patients pay a part of the medical fees. This is through various instruments, for e.g.
The decision making is largely done by parties other than the patient, for e.g. the health insurance company is selected by the employer, and the in-network healthcare providers are selected by the health insurance company. By now you know what's different here from the other industries, and it is the lack of patient-centricity. Even the electronic medical records are not owned or controlled by the patient. The patient makes a separate request to get access to their EMRs. They can't decide what happens with their EMRs either. Doctors typically ask the patients to sign an agreement, which allows the doctor or other medical providers to sell an anonymized version of patient's data. Typically big pharmaceutical companies buy this data, since it helps them in their research. Patient makes no money from this transactions, and the healthcare provider acts as middleman here. If a solution can eliminate the middleman, and ensure adequate data security for the sensitive EMR, it can give the control back to where it rightly belongs, i.e. with the patient.
Proof Work, an Israel-based blockchain start-up is attempting to give patients the control over their EMR, using blockchain. Blockchain is a technology that is essentially a distributed database. Computers on the network, also called 'nodes', maintain a shared, immutable and mathematically proven version of truth in this decentralized system, where every node is equal point of authority, and updates to blockchain need not be channeled through any central authority. This eliminated middlemen. Block records, also called 'blocks', are linked together using a predetermined protocol, and no existing block can be deleted or modified. All updates to blockchain require creation of new blocks. The consensus mechanism of blockchain ensures that the order of transactions is maintained accurately, which is vital for data integrity in this decentralized system. To create a new block, a combination of special-purpose software, specially designed hardware, and their user, also called 'miner', must complete massive number-crunching operations at quick time in a competitive environment. The miner not only has to provide the data about the transaction he is trying to record on the blockchain, but also reference to the last recorded block, and doing that involves trying out one number after another at high speed. Only when a miner is able to provide proof of work (POW) this way, the consensus algorithm approves the transaction and enables creation of a new block. This complex mechanism makes hacking blockchain economically non-viable, and makes blockchain very secured.
A summary of Proof Work's solution: