This interview is part of our new Blockchain In Healthcare series, where we interview the world's leading thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between blockchain and healthcare.
In this interview we speak with Dr. Quy Vo-Reinhard, Chief Data Officer and co-founder of HIT Foundation, to understand how her company is using blockchain to transform the healthcare business, and what the future of the industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind the HIT Foundation? Why and how did you begin?
QV: The idea of tokenization of health data began by Dr. Eberhard Scheuer. As a 20 years of experience psychologist, lecturer and a thought leader in eHealth, Dr. Scheuer found out that lack of incentives for individuals to digitize their health data and monopolization and fragmentation of health data leads to siloes and inefficiencies.
Dr. Eberhard Scheuer and I founded HIT Foundation in November 2017 with a vision to make healthcare affordable for everyone via a decentralized health information infrastructure to support consensual data sharing between individuals and organizations. Through a community-owned exchange, the value of health information is tokenized. The reward system enables individuals to pay for health services with their data.
HIT Foundation is backed by an experienced founding team with synergistic skills, each having a track record in their area of expertise.
2. Please describe your use case and how the HIT Foundation uses blockchain:
QV: The benefit of the HIT Platform is the ability to empower the individual and to provide incentives to individuals to digitize, create, maintain and finally share their health data. Additional benefits are the traceability of individuals’ data, and that those who seek data can access individuals directly. Due to the absence of a central database the HIT differentiates itself from all other data platforms that try to monopolize and control the data of the individuals. Therefore, HIT revolutionizes the way health-related data is sought and monetized.
There are many use cases/protocols possible on the basis of the HIT Network. The following list of use-case areas is a non-exhaustive enumeration:
- Research/Surveys/Real Word Evidence: Information seekers ask individuals for providing data directly to the seeker, e.g., research, post-market surveillance, monitoring of treatment side-effects, etc.
- eConsent and Revenue Sharing: Previously obtained data repositories, such as DNA or tissue sample data banks can use the HI-Trust app to obtain informed consent from the individual for analyzing their data. Revenue sharing between the operator of the data repository and the individual can be implemented.
- Adherence/Behavior Modification: Target behavior can be rewarded when it is recorded on the blockchain, e.g., in prevention programs or for process optimization.
- Services: Individuals can redeem medical or non-medical services with the HIT tokens that they earned in use-cases a, b, c.
- Targeted Information Placement: Publications or services can be displayed in the app when it matches the user’s profile data. Due to blockchain technology, the user’s data cannot be exploited.
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
QV: The benefit of the HIT Platform is the ability to empower the individual and to provide incentives to individuals to digitize, create, maintain and finally share their health data.
Additional benefits are the traceability of individuals’ data, and that those who seek data can access individuals directly. Due to the absence of a central database the HIT differentiates itself from all other data platforms that try to monopolize and control the data of the individuals. Therefore, HIT revolutionizes the way health-related data is sought and monetized.
Example: currently we are tackling the problem of tuberculosis medication adherence in the era of digital financing with blockchain in low-income countries via a project with National Lung Hospital Vietnam
Tuberculosis (TB) patients stop treatment make the End TB program inefficient.
Demand-side barriers to TB medication adherence are to a large extent, drivers to non-adherence. These obstacles include lack of understanding by patients regarding the importance of treatment adherence, lack of support from family and community and poverty.
The inability to pay for the costs of TB care is a key problem faced by TB patients in poverty. TB care costs that TB patients have to cover out-of-pocket are not only direct medical care costs such as X-ray tests but also indirect treatment costs including travel, accommodation, nutritional supplements, and income loss.
A recent study measured catastrophic costs due to tuberculosis treatment in Vietnam. According to this study, “the proportion of households experiencing catastrophic total costs due to TB in Vietnam is high, which poses a barrier to TB diagnosis and treatment.”
Patients who stop TB medication before completion can leave them infectious and symptomatic. This feeds a vicious circle of more people being infected, longer treatment regimes for the patient and higher costs for health providers and patients.
What if we could provide the TB patient with a novel and tangible financial incentive to complete TB treatment? This is what the HIT Foundation is planning to do in collaboration with the National Lung Hospital (NLH) and the National TB Program (NTP) in Vietnam.
Integrating financial incentives in medication adherence programs has been shown to work. We are building on the available evidence and on our experience so far in Vietnam to implement a solution that has the potential to make the difference.
4. What other blockchain use cases in healthcare are you excited about?
QV: Blockchain in Pharma Supply Chain: drugs traceability in pharma supply chain should be the next big thing. Several factors such as maintaining a temperature range, humidity, air quality within specified limits etc. should be able to be tracked. The quality of a drug depends very much on the environmental conditions throughout the supply chain and blockchain can be the facilitator that ensures compliance.
All the participants can register different factors and the logistics of the supply chain life cycle can happen in a transparent, immutable manner, and with a distributed nature.
5. Where will the HIT Foundation be in 5 years?
QV: The HIT vision is a community-owned and distributed exchange for personal health data that puts individuals at its center with all the control over their health data, which enables sustainable healthcare. Its disruptive potential lies in breaking existing data monopolies and the empowerment of a global data-driven healthcare system. In 5 years, we will acquire at least 5 millions users globally and become the largest health community by 2020. The HIT master nodes will be sustained by themselves.