How blockchain & telehealth can transform healthcare

Medical device experts gathered in Nuremberg today for a dedicated session on connected health devices and the potential of blockchain for healthcare systems at the MT-Connect conference and trade show.

Opening the morning’s session, Stefan Winter from Philips Innovative Technologies gave a presentation on the latest opportunities for developing connected health technologies.

Limited global resources, an ageing population, increasing rates of chronic diseases, and the consumerisation of the patient experience are all factors driving the need for connected health solutions, Winter explained.

Giving examples of some of Philips latest connected health products, Winter described eICU, a telehealth programme for intensive care. Using A/V technology, predictive analytics and data visualisation, the program connects caregivers across health systems and geographical boundaries.

The healthcare giant is also developing telehealth products which enable patients to receive treatment in their own homes. Lumify, for example, is the group’s mobile ultrasound device. More recently Philips introduced a tele-ultrasound product, Winter said, which can connect the patient with the doctor for remote diagnostics. While not yet suitable for non-trained individuals, Winter said he believes that in the future, patients will be able to conduct their own ultrasound procedures with the guidance of a remote doctor.

“At Philips we are willing to use the potential of connected health to offer solutions to deal with these problems. What’s important is that we see the person from a holistic point of view. We try to offer solutions that promote healthy living, diagnosis, treatment, and care at home. Physicians need the tools to do that, but the barriers in data flow need to be broken down.”

Perhaps the most pertinent session of the morning came from Dr Eberhard Scheuer, chairman of the HIT Foundation for healthcare IT, who examined the potential of blockchain – the latest trend disrupting healthcare delivery.

“A blockchain is an extremely inflexible database which stores as little information as possible, because everything you store there will remain there forever. It is a spread out technology.”

The healthcare blockchain landscape consists of healthcare data infrastructure, personal health record management, healthcare analytics, IoT security, identity management, supply chain management and digital medicine delivery, Scheuer said.

“The more data you have in your database, the better you can make predictions,” he said. “Look at Roche. They bought Flatiron Health for $1.9b. Why? Because they had so much real life data into cancer. This data is extremely valuable, because these days treatment is only reimbursed if you can prove that it works. Flatiron has lots of this data.”

Scheuer explained that there are no real incentives to digitise this data, however. Blockchain, he believes, could provide the answer.

“We have developed a cryptocurrency which we can use to pay people for digitalising his or her data. Healthy people even can join us, and open a so-called ‘wallet’.

“Those who are seeking data would currently have to pay a clinical research organisation. What we are doing is developing a token economy. Everybody wants to collect money, that’s a natural instinct.”

As a long-term goal, Scheuer hopes that his cryptocurrency could even be exchanged by patients in return for healthcare provision services as part of an integrated delivery and data acquisition model.

The organisation is still young, but Scheuer projects that he will have over a million users in the first year, comprised of individuals, partners, research organisations and policy makers/payers.

In July this year, with a €30 million investment, Scheuer’s foundation will release around a billion ‘HIT tokens’ into the system. This will be followed in Q3 by the release of a ‘wallet’ app for users to participate in the blockchain.



Occupation: Online editor Industry: Life sciences Favourite app: MyFitnessPal Favourite device: Currently loving the Sony Smartwatch My dream device: Implantable heartburn killer!


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