[News Focus] Blockchain x healthcare: Korean startups out to build decentralized healthcare big data platforms
Blockchain, a distributed ledger system, is viewed as a revolutionary technology with applicative value across diverse sectors. But the big question has always been: where and how can blockchain be used to bring about practical changes?
A handful of South Korea’s startups have set their eyes on healthcare data management -- creating a new blockchain-based healthcare data platform where health records can be safely stored and actively traded among stakeholders.
The platform would be self-operational, as blockchain technology functions by recording and sharing transactions among all participants in the network. Based on smart contracts, the user would receive tokens depending on the “value” of the data assigned by the information seeker.
Patients would earn tokens by digitizing their health records and making them available to interested players. Meanwhile, hospitals, companies and research labs could pay in tokens to obtain valuable patient data through the platform.
Despite the grand vision, major hurdles remain. The biggest concern is participation -- exactly how many users will get onboard this platform? Are the companies in charge capable of designing and maintaining this healthcare data platform? Can data security be fully assured?
Amid both opportunities and challenges, Korean healthcare startups including Zikto, MediBloc and My23Healthcare are pushing through with plans to create and operate a blockchain-based healthcare big data platform.
Seoul-based health technology startup Zikto, known for its posture-tracking fitness wearable “Zikto Walk,” is planning to build a decentralized ecosystem that will connect insurers, consumers and third-party solution developers to trade insurance-related health and lifestyle data in an easy but secure way.
Dubbed the “Insureum Protocol,” the platform would allow these parties to exchange blockchain-based tokens to buy and sell anonymized data in a secure setting. To raise capital and invite in participants, Zikto is currently pursuing an initial coin offering to sell its Insureum tokens to interest investment.
MediBloc is pursuing a similar platform, but the big data they hope to pool is patient medical records. The firm is working to build a new patient-centered medical recordkeeping platform using blockchain technology.
Medical records have long been stored and managed by hospitals, under strict privacy regulations Private medical data exchanges are prohibited, and a patient’s data usually remains scattered at various hospitals and clinics.
MediBloc believes it can break this model by build a patient-centric medical record system based on blockchain technology.
Once new data is saved on a blockchain, it cannot be edited, deleted overwritten, ensuring security. There is also need for a central authority. When applied to health data-keeping, it means records are kept authentic, and there is no need for hospitals to manage them.
Doctors would be able to input a consenting patient’s medical data -- including diagnostics results such as blood test results, medical imaging data like X-rays, CTs and MRIs and genetic data -- into MediBloc’s blockchain system.
Patients would receive tokens for adding their data on the platform, and use the tokens to pay hospital bills or purchase digital health services. Research institutes or hospitals could purchase an anonymized version of the patient’s data for R&D purposes.
Likewise, personalized DNA analysis service provider My23Healthcare is currently a part of a consortium to build the Alphacon Network, a blockchain-based healthcare big data platform which collects, analyzes, standardizes, and distributes healthcare big data.
All of the abovementioned startups are currently in the process of pursuing an initial coin offering to attract funding for its envisioned platforms. Development is still underway and the startups have yet to actually begin operating the platforms.
By Sohn Ji-young (firstname.lastname@example.org