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HealthCombix Founder Cyrus Maaghul on Where Blockchains Are Needed in Healthcare

Cyrus Maaghul is a lifelong entrepreneur, currently exploring how blockchain, smart contract and decentralized autonomous organization technology can help solve issues within the healthcare industry.

He is the founder of HealthCombix — a healthcare-focused, blockchain-based population health platform — and PointNurse, a telehealth collaborative led by nurse practitioners.

Below is an interview with Maaghul about his journey into the nascent space of distributed healthcare systems and its future prospects.

What have you discovered from your leap into distributed health technology?

During the early stages of my dive into this space, I began to realize that the technology was pretty immature. In particular, when it came to integration, a lot of the infrastructure was not available and thus would have to be built from scratch.

Given that, what solutions did you decide to pursue?

Over a year ago I decided that while running PointNurse, I may as well start a research and development firm. This would allow me to begin building out ecosystem capabilities that companies like PointNurse could use in the future. I named that company HealthCombix. 

What was your aim in launching HealthCombix?

Our goal is to build out the next generation of healthcare systems. We want to redefine and redesign in an open protocol a decentralized network model for healthcare, replacing existing systems with different protocols that are assembled and tokenized so that information and tokens can be exchanged between them.

Can you elaborate a bit more on what the HealthCombix model will look like? And how it will be different?

Elements like confidentiality, interoperability, consent management, identity and payments — all of these will be situated on blockchains and distributed networks that can interact with each other. Instead of building everything on top of one stack or network, we wanted to identify carefully and over time the appropriate protocol and network for each capability as the underpinnings of a new healthcare system.

Which healthcare stakeholders are you targeting? 

Our intent is to work with independent providers, those who are outside of the existing system seeking to build something that’s more provider-centric. We are going to work with those in direct care and concierge medicine, independent or freelancer, and build a platform that allows them to onboard their patients directly. We’ll also work with self-insured employers who don’t want to engage with managed care organizations but do want to have an infrastructure in place in lieu of working with the existing systems.

But aren’t you reinventing the wheel a bit given Ethereum’s advancements in the space?

Lots of people are looking at applications on top of Ethereum, or are looking at smart contracts as a part of identity management. To me, that’s okay and it certainly can be done. But a lot of points of centralization would have to occur with this approach, which kind of defeats the purpose of decentralization.

The good news is that there’s a growing group of very clever technologists committed to building completely decentralized networks. Those who are still pursuing key management solutions that are centralized, in my view, are asking for trouble.

What’s next in terms of your development?

We’re moving along at a very measured pace, overcoming the prevailing mindset of doing it the way it’s always been done, on top of a blockchain with a lot of centralization. We believe that through the use of a little creativity and some advanced cryptography, we can actually do things in a decentralized way. 

Are there other projects you’re keeping an eye on in this space?

Ted Tanner and his work with PokitDok, I believe, is an interesting case. They’ve done a nice job of pivoting from a telemedicine app to an API provider and now a blockchain provider. While I’m sure there are questions as to whether the company will survive or be absorbed by a bigger enterprise, I believe they have a private, permissioned blockchain solution that’s ready for production in the nearest term.

Ultimately, you believe that a decentralized model for healthcare is key for the longevity of the industry? 

Yes. I do believe in the power of decentralization, which is why I’m going to be a very patient builder. In the meantime, I plan to do a lot of education, informing and teaching from what I’m learning. Unfortunately, lots of people, in my opinion, are going to get their fingers burned in healthcare just like they did in financial services before any major breakthroughs occur. 

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