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During Distributed: Health’s Investor Pitch Sessions, Startups Sought to Decentralize Healthcare

There is no shortage of ideas in the healthcare startup world. Healthcare entrepreneurs and innovators all around the world are working to develop the right business models that can solve the tough problems faced by the health sector, and many see blockchain technology as a key for success.

As a testament to this, on November 5–6, 2018, the Distributed: Health conference played host to investor pitch sessions during which 11 companies proposed their ideas for addressing healthcare’s pain points with decentralization. These pitch sessions were composed of a diverse audience of healthcare professionals, investors and technologists.

Each company had 10 minutes to present their ideas to a panel of four judges and were asked to focus on answering fundamental questions like what problem they sought to solve and why blockchain technology is really needed for their solution. The judges then had five minutes for a Q&A after each presentation. 

The judges included Lin Wan, the co-founder and CTO at Stella Technology; Charles Aunger, managing director at Health2047 and member of the Forbes Technology Council; Jeanine Martin, a Bill and Melinda Gates Fellow and global vice president of business development at Midas+ (Xerox/Conduent); and Marcus Whitney, president at Briovation

The scope of the problems addressed varied widely amongst the presenters, but it was clear that all of the presenters were passionate about fixing their identified problems. Only a fraction of the startup pitches verged on half-baked, while most were clear and precise about the problems they were tackling and how their solutions would work. 

For more details on each pitch, see the recaps below:

1. Saavha

Returning to Nashville as the winner of Distributed: Health’s accompanying hackathon in 2016, Dr. Mathew Rose discussed identity theft, data control and identity access management. According to Rose, “81 percent of data breaches are due to password hacks contributing to the massive amount of insurance fraud.” 

Saavha’s solution is to use voice recognition technology to function as a password. Saavha wants to be the premier security choice for identity authentication using their proprietary APIs, replacing the need for users to log in to a website using their Facebook or Google accounts. Blockchain technology will be leveraged for the platform’s auditing and logging components.

Saavha is currently using the Bitcoin network but claims to be blockchain agnostic. Rose was seeking a seed round of $1.5 million in convertible notes.

2. Verif-y 

Using the Ethereum blockchain and sitting on the Microsoft Azure cloud, Verif-y has developed an identity verification platform to provide individuals with the ability to own and control their identities.

Ed Zabar, CEO of Verif-y, explained that the ultimate goal for society is for people to become self-sovereign, but admitted that the best we have right now is a quasi-self-sovereign solution. Verif-y provides an identity score based on a fully live credentials wallet.

According to Zabar, “21 percent of individuals have fraudulent degrees on their bios.” Verif-y intends to verify each piece of identify from the source. For example, the company will reach out to Stanford University to confirm that a person actually graduated from the school and received their degree. The individual has complete control over who can access pieces of their identity. This gives providers the ability to share information about their identities with hospitals to ensure that their identity claims are all true. Zabar was seeking a $3–5 million funding round.

3. Collaborative Healthcare Solutions

J.P. Ziegler, CEO of Collaborative Healthcare, explained the underserved problems related to lack of data sharing around interpersonal violence. His company wants to build a platform to facilitate the sharing of information for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Mandatory and Forensic Reporting requirements. It is considering three use cases for blockchain technology that would “protect the core data itself, evidence chain of custody [and provide] smart contracts to work with states and hospitals,” Ziegler said.

Since February 2018, the company has been working on a pilot with the California Clinical Forensic Medical Training Center. The judges thanked Ziegler for his commitment to fixing such a challenging issue and commended him on his work.

4. Clinical Blockchain

Data interoperability has eluded the health IT ecosystem long enough. Dozens of data standards have been introduced to help, but we’re still not able to align the incentives of providers and technology companies. Ed Bukstel, CEO of Clinical Blockchain, described how secondary data silos can be leveraged to improve the patient experience and help make better decisions.

His company, Clinical Blockchain, is marketing its platform idea to employers and benefits plans. Bukstel argued that “they want their employees to make better decisions, and health data generated during the claims adjudication process can help.” 

The judges tried to dig in to the technical details around the blockchain platform, but Bukstel’s answers to their questions did not appear satisfying. Indeed, this solution would be a major undertaking, but with Bukstel’s extended executive experience in health IT, his approach may offer new insights to patients. The company is based in Philadelphia and signed its first client in September 2018.

5. Citizen Health

Citizen Health is an open-source software company that wants to connect healthcare buyers and sellers directly, saving on costs. Led by Brennen Hodge, it aims to achieve this by developing an operating system, marketplace and four crypto assets.

Its first phase is to build a personal health record app on which people can earn “medit” tokens from their wearable data. Hodge was looking to raise $5 million and pilot in Houston, TX, and Jackson, MS. 

6. ConsilX

ConsilX Digital, a clinical trial patient management platform, introduced their LifeLedger system, which facilitates the clinical trial process from patient identification to trial reporting and collaborative learning. Dr. Rajesh Jain and Himanshu Verma discussed how their platform can streamline and improve transparency in the clinical trials of tomorrow. The company is based in Singapore and was also a sponsor of the Distributed: Health conference.

7. ScalaMed 

The disjointed experience of getting, tracking and using prescription medications poses real risks for patients. Dr. Tal Rapke, founder of ScalaMed, implored the audience to “not blame the patient anymore” but to “change the system.”

About 30 percent of Rapke’s patients weren’t picking up their prescriptions, sometimes at the risk of life-threatening conditions. Using their patent-pending software and blockchain technology, ScalaMed will be connecting pharmacies, healthcare professionals and patients to improve the ecosystem. ScalaMed plans to launch in Houston next month at clinics that serve over 80,000 patients.

8. Betterpath

Matt Sinderbrand, the CEO of Betterpath, based in Brooklyn, NY, illuminated the problems of having many health data silos. His company aims to use BetterHSA, its initial digital product, to “scrape” consumer’s health data by acting as a personal data broker. Consumers can securely collect their own information and get insights about their savings. The patient can manage their personal health records and can use machine learning to help them understand long-term treatment outcomes. With appreciation for the other presenting startups, Sinderbrand invited them to partner with Betterpath.

9. QCMedchain 

J.J. Ogrey, CTO of QCMedchain, discussed the problem of fake drugs in Tanzania. Verifying the supply chain of drugs and thwarting counterfeits is the startup’s ultimate goal. One of its aims is to use IoT devices to measure temperature and location of drugs to ensure that cold-stored medicines are handled properly during transit. Cold chain monitoring on a blockchain could help to guarantee the expected efficacy of drugs.

10. Unity Health Score

A self-proclaimed high school dropout, Austin Jones, CEO of Unity Health Score, explained the typical major issues healthcare providers face. He also described how frustrating it is to be a patient who needs to provide their medical and medication history multiple times, when instead a patient-owned system could put them in control. He explained that Unity Health Score wants to leverage decentralization to make patient data, specifically health records and wearables data, work for the patients. It is seeking $500,000 to develop a minimum viable product and keep it online for a year. 

11. Polyn8

The Polyn8 team eagerly pitched its platform, which is improving the post-visit patient surveys. It wants to manage privacy and transparency on a blockchain. According to Arvin Magusara, CEO of Polyn8, “The speed of survey validation is faster if it’s on the blockchain.”

The winner of the competition was ScalaMed, the startup focusing on a digital wallet for prescriptions. Rapke passionately and effectively re-pitched his presentation on the main stage during the final few hours of the conference.

Having traveled from Australia to participate in the competition, Rapke was feeling really grateful to be selected first out of all the other admirable startups. His enthusiasm can be heard on a short audio clip included in a mini-interviews episode from the conference on the Health Unchained Podcast.

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