Tulip Conference 2018 – The Blooming Potential of Blockchain

Charles Aunger
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Tulip’s 2018 Emerging Technologies Conference brought together digital nomads, innovative enterprises, blocktrepreneurs, and Silicon Valley’s top brass investors. From Blockchain meets Cannabis to Blockchain meets Smart Cities, the diverse mashup of thought leadership filled two full days with fascinating discussions about the future of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. We flew into San Francisco from different cities around the world, united by an itching curiosity: What does the next generation of blockchain technology look like?

This technology is nothing new – utilizing cryptocurrency and blockchain to reduce the role of the government dates back to 1999. Over the next three years, blockchain technology in healthcare will embark upon a journey that will change the way our data is stored, tracked and verified to restore trust in patients and providers alike. Fast forward to 2030, and the journey to address healthcare’s data diaspora and enable data liquidity will be deep underway. Today, blockchain is all infrastructure, and therefore the centralization of a  global blockchain platform on a worldwide scale is needed. With current issues centering around the implementation and utilization of blockchain methods, we have no choice but to embrace the holy grail of blockchain interoperability.

Now, don’t get your hopes up too high – keynote speaker and Kaiser Permanente CMIO, John Mattison, insists that the entirety of interoperability will not be solved with blockchain alone. The healthcare landscape is complex, innovative, evolutionary, and volatile. With so much legacy and countless individual systems, healthcare needs more semantic interoperability – the flawless codification and interpretation of data – than Blockchain can address.

Blockchain solutions require “coopetition” – a balance of cooperation and competition – to ensure that today, the best minds unite to create an unparalleled new economy, and that later, those same players compete to guarantee continued innovation. If we are after trusted data networks, we must first build B2B trust within and across verticals, and with competitors. If we desire to re-platform existing solutions, we must replace them with blockchain solutions that promise less friction and more value. If we are to build this trusted environment, which in most cases is more expensive than the solutions themselves, the world of healthcare must prepare for a significant disruption from blockchain technologies.

There was a shared opinion that the integration of blockchain and healthcare will have a five-year runway before there is a widespread impact. Dr. Mattison identified a handful of emerging use cases that are already taking a stroll down that runway. Blockchain is unlocking Personal Health Records (PHRs) and placing the control of health record sharing into the hands of the patient. Companies, such as LunaDNA, are using blockchain technology to empower individuals to take ownership of their personal genomic data as a “digital asset.” Users of LunaDNA, in exchange for Luna Coins, can share their genomic information with scientists for biomedical and health-related research.

Another exciting door that blockchain is swinging open in the world of healthcare is Identity Management. uPort is utilizing Ethereum to return identity ownership to the individual. Do you mean to say that blockchain can provide a solution to my identity crisis, too? Well, not quite. On the platform, the user creates his or her uPort identity, a complete digital representation of that person, and collects reputation data through the mobile app, all completely independent from a centralized third party. This type of decentralized system, combined with an increase in patient ownership of PHRs and direct access to medical professionals, makes for a recipe of accessible and affordable healthcare for anyone with access to the Internet.

Despite varying political systems, budgets, timelines, goals and skills, every government worldwide is utilizing technology to reinvent. Marquis Cabrera, IBM Global Leader of Digital Government Transformation, pointed to the United Arab Emirates as an example of a government who is embracing rapid prototyping and blockchain technology to solve ecosystems, supply chains and provide citizen services.

The general consensus, that the future of technology is rooted in collaboration and community, was reassuring to say the least. While blockchain solutions seem promising and hopeless at the same time, digital technology is unlocking global markets, and an open embrace is necessary in order to be an effective part of the solution. As more and more data is created, industries that provide government services need easier and simpler ways to leverage this data for empowerment. Thus, I join other Tulip attendees in raising a glass to the Holy Grail of Blockchain Interoperability.

— Charles Aunger is Managing Director at Health2047.

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Charles Aunger


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