More than 700 registered attendees absorbed information,
asked questions and interfaced with one another to form the building blocks
that will carry the healthcare industry into its next iteration. About 30 developers
attended an accompanying code camp today to sharpen their blockchain coding
skills and, eventually, put decentralizing ideas into practice.
“Healthcare Is Ripe
The event opened on Monday with welcome remarks and a
fireside chat led by former medical practitioner, Tennessee senator and House
Majority Leader Bill Frist. He leveraged his experience as both a provider and
regulator to describe Nashville’s unique position in the healthcare atmosphere
(where the industry has a $38.8 billion impact, per at least one estimation)
and the industry’s dire need for fundamental change.
“Right now, healthcare is ripe for disruption like no other
industry,” Frist said. “The reason is, we have very, very, very high cost,
which the typical consumer can’t afford, and we have uneven access. … When you
have high cost and you have uneven access, the macro environment for disruption
is huge. And that’s where blockchain [technology] is.”
Inviting Michael Painter, senior program officer at the
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to join him in a fireside chat, Frist expanded
on the need for blockchain solutions in healthcare, pointing out that the first
step to addressing issues like healthcare disparity and encouraging healthy
lifestyles more broadly will be collecting and leveraging data in a
“Without access to current, real data that can be trusted,
that is privacy protected, that is distributed … we can’t make any real
progress,” Frist said. “Blockchain [technology] has the opportunity … to
address one of those basic needs of society. Which is to make sure that our
children have a better life, have better health, than we have.”
“An Opportunity to
Build Development Tools”
Following the opening remarks, Distributed: Health attendees
were free to attend the panels and conversations that most interested them
among multiple, concurrent tracks. There were presentations on pressing health
issues, explorations of viable use cases and technological primers.
This included the first-ever public platform for the
Synaptic Health Alliance, a group of leading healthcare enterprises that has
collaborated to explore potential uses for blockchain technology. The group
included Michael Jacobs, senior engineer at Optum; Kyle Culver, lead enterprise
architect at Humana; and Dave Murtagh, vice president of operations and
provider data for MultiPlan. In addition to describing their work, the alliance
members noted that the inspiration for the group had struck as two of them
mingled between panels at Distributed: Health 2017.
“One of the things we’ve learned about [blockchain]
technology is that it’s most suitable when you have multiple organizations
involved,” Jacobs said. “You want to steer your ship toward a use case focus.”
Attendees also heard from Change Healthcare and TIBCO
Software, whose representatives took the main stage to announce a partnership
to introduce a blockchain-powered smart contract platform that can be easily
leveraged by healthcare enterprises to improve fundamental tasks like claims
“What we’re really trying to do is bring the first smart
contract platform to healthcare,” explained Emily Vaughn, product director of
blockchain at Change Healthcare. “What we see is an opportunity to build
development tools to allow for healthcare’s engineers to quickly design and
build blockchain applications.”
“We’ve Seen This
The second day of Distributed: Health began with remarks
from John Bass, CEO of Nashville-based Hashed Health. As a co-host of all three
Distributed: Health conferences, Bass took the opportunity to reflect on how
the conversation around decentralized solutions for healthcare problems has
“If you think about 2016, it was all about community
building,” Bass said. “2017 was a lot of enterprise work, a lot of conversations
with big insurance companies, big pharma companies … about how enterprises
could get involved. Now, in 2018, we’ve seen this shift. … The shift that I’ve
noticed is that the conversations are much more mature, the audience is much
more mature, the level of thought, the practicality … is much more advanced and
much more mature than what we’ve seen in the past.”
“The Use Cases Will
Beyond the attendees, several solutions providers were
present at Distributed: Health to capitalize on that maturity and help those
seeking blockchain-based products and platforms to make the most of available
tools. Companies exhibiting in the venue’s innovation hall included ConsenSys
Health, QubeChain and Luxoft.
was another such exhibitor, with CEO Pradeep Goel taking the main stage to
share his successes, learning experiences and passion for the space with
is ready to adopt blockchain [technology] if you can demonstrate clear ROI,”
Goel said. “This is not an issue of when blockchain will start working in
healthcare. It is starting to work. … Once you have the right framework in
place, then the use cases will flood in and that is what we are experiencing.”
has demonstrated this through a digital wallet and token designed to facilitate
seamless data exchange and payments between providers and patients, solutions
that have been leveraged by the Arizona Care Network.
both days of the conference, there was also ample opportunity for those on the
frontlines of creating blockchain solutions to promote their projects to attendees.
A running “investor pitch” session took place on the third floor of the
Symphony Center where dozens of projects shared their value propositions,
potential utility and learning experiences.
project, as determined by a panel of judges, took the main stage toward the end
of the conference to share its story.
patients make too many mistakes when it comes to their medications,” said a
representative from ScalaMed, the winning project, before pointing out that 30
percent of patients don’t ever pick up their prescribed medications and that 50
percent stop taking their prescribed medications after six months.
this, ScalaMed plans to launch a “smart prescription” platform that
automatically enters a prescription into an electronic health record, secures
it on a blockchain, places it in a digital wallet and lets patients send it
digitally to a pharmacy. Among the touted advantages, this could allow patients
to compare pharmaceutical costs and alert them to potential allergies or other
blockchain [technology] because we truly believe: it’s your information, it’s
your data and you have the right to control it,” the representative said.
Building on this year's successes and the healthcare industry's progress to date, registration for Distributed: Health 2019 has already opened.
Disclaimer: Distributed: Health was presented by the Distributed Event
Series, which, like Distributed.com, is owned by BTC Inc.