Do You Have a Blockchain Strategy?

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Fuller

Self-sovereignty, healthcare data as an emerging asset class, machine learning disease intervention, decentralized autonomous healthcare networks, eliminating intermediates such as insurance companies are all quite powerful propositions or are they perhaps future capabilities for a new end-state global healthcare system?

But what are the real value propositions each of these and other capabilities bring separately or together? Better outcomes, lower costs, speedier delivery, or improved safety? What about a basic patient income? What about the underpinnings of new healthcare economies, local ecosystems, and business models that have not been imagined?

Getting from here to there is a mighty lift, indeed, requiring plenty of sweat and tears from all of us turncoats, new incentives and motivations, and evolving from smoke signals, to tom-tom drums, to to the phone. Why do we really need payors or the government in healthcare? Are electronic health record companies necessary? Who will you trust in the future with your health? A Silicon Valley VC company? A machine learning company? A robo-doctor? For all those who share such a vision of open decentralized healthcare ecosystem nirvana, the work is just starting.

The healthcare blockchain industry is more or less following the same path sickled by those pioneers in banking and capital markets. The simple concept of a peer-to-peer digital cash system with no intermediary has spurred a massive movement (in many interesting directions) to create the next wave of the internet, new economies and organizations, enabling new types of assets, reshuffling market structures, moving power to the edges, and much more.

Where do you begin developing your understanding of what currently exists in this rapidly evolving and dynamic movement? What is here today, tomorrow, or the distant future? Where can you play? How do you engage it? What are your core beliefs?

Here are a few of mine:

  • Closed, permissioned blockchain, or shared infrastructure solutions have the potential to create only incremental industry-level efficiency gains, not disruption. Successful future deployment of this type of solution is very use case specific and reeks with stealth centralization (and the traditional risk) and at times a solution seeking a problem. Most of the security and trust capabilities today of open decentralized blockchains are not relevant in private networks hence the opportunistic, incumbent-friendly, evolution of Hyperledger, R3, EEA, and their “inspired” solutions. These are new cloud offerings both IBM and Microsoft have glom on to. Are other tech stacks better suited for private healthcare ecosystems?
  • Meaningful healthcare industry disruption will emerge from innovation related to open decentralized networks and convergence of advanced technologies including IoT and machine learning. New economies, ecosystems, and autonomous organizations or new business models will dynamically evolve. Machine-to-machine protocols and networks will enable new ways of collecting and analyzing data and caring for patients.
  • Open decentralized networks will set the stage and create new markets for health data to evolve into a new asset class giving rise to consumers controlling the brokerage, monetization, and consumption of their data for research, precision health, clinical trials, payment, groceries, and disease intervention and management. Consumers will need to understand the benefits and responsibility that comes with the ownership and control of their self-sovereign data for successful adoption of amazing new services.
  • Healthcare administrators, risk managers, banks, and supply-chain trusted intermediates will be rolled up, displaced or diminished by new types of ecosystems that will draw consumers and providers from existing ecosystems to lower cost and perhaps income producing options.

That’s a mouth full.

Pacing and timing are critical at this stage of the game. There is significant new development occurring daily. Developments in core capabilities at the industry and academic level is briskly moving along. What segment of the market will you play in? Are you going to be eaten? How do you derisk your investments? There are many tripwires you and your team should be watching out for. There is a buffet of opportunities.

What are they?

Cyrus Maaghul is the founder of HealthCombix, an emerging healthcare blockchain network startup.

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