Showing all posts written by Daniel Kamkar
Recently, digital currencies, such as bitcoin, have greatly increased in popularity. Some of this popularity may be attributed to digital currencies’ many purported advantages over traditional currencies, such as that blockchain technology allows for a distributed and cryptographically secure ledger without the use of traditional banking institutions. Newer and more advanced digital currencies have recently been introduced with the added advantage of smart contracts, which are said to be self-executing contractual clauses that may be programmed into a digital currency transaction. As such, many new digital currencies have been appearing with individuals investing in Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), which are somewhat akin to the Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) of a traditional corporation.
Even more recently, a few companies have begun to make use of digital currencies and blockchain technology in the medical arena. Many have found blockchain technology uniquely suited to secure patient records, and have found that the smart contracts of digital currencies may allow individuals greater control of their medical data. Below is a summary of a few fields of medicine and companies within those fields in which digital currencies and blockchain are already being developed.
Medical Records and Health Data
According to The Merkle, Bowhead Health is the first medical device company using their AHT digital currency tokens with smart contracts to create a new medical data market. The company plans to allow individuals with Bowhead’s digital currency to control the dissemination of their medical data, and also to compensate those individuals if and when they choose to share with research institutions. Bowhead’s AHT tokens are said to allow 70% of research fees to be distributed to users with the other 30% going to token holders.
According to Blockchain News, Medicalchain is a UK-based company using blockchain technology to allow patients to securely store and send their medical records to their healthcare professionals. Medicalchain is said to allow patients to have a centralized medical record accessible from anywhere in the world, and allow individuals the ability to control medical institutions’ access to their records.
The Medical Society of Delaware has partnered with the company Medscient, and they are using blockchain technology to create a proof-of-concept platform to allow insurers and medical care providers to access patient records, according to The Cointelegraph. The article further states that this partnership was made possible when the state of Delaware became the first state to pass a law allowing the use of blockchain technology in business for stock trading and record-keeping.
The Illinois Blockchain Initiative has partnered with Hashed Health to create a pilot program to streamline the process of issuing and tracking medical licenses, according to The Cointelegraph. The goal of this partnership is said to give patients and healthcare providers a transparent license registry system that uses smart contracts to automatically update information.
Medicine and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
According to news sources, Doc.ai is a collaboration between developers from the universities of Stanford and Cambridge, and is said to be creating a platform built on blockchain technology and using AI to create a resource to answer patient’s specific questions regarding their personal health records and their physician’s analysis.
The WannaCry virus has infected and frozen computers in many industries around the world. According to a news source report, the virus has extorted doctors and hospital administrators for the keys to unlock and regain access to their systems in order to treat patients. The Telegraph reports that in the United Kingdom alone, up to 40 hospital trusts were hit by the WannaCry ransomware virus, which resulted in a wave of cancelled appointments and a general state of disarray. Recently, the BBC has stated that at least 16 of these hospitals are still facing issues. With the widespread damage associated with the WannaCry virus, many experts have advocated that the medical device industry should be on alert, now more than ever, regarding the cyber security of their medical devices.
Although the issues associated with medical device security have recently been discussed, some industry professionals believe there does not seem to be an adequate solution to the problem of device security. Tressa Springman, the CIO of LifeBridge Health, explains:
“There’s a lot of talk in healthcare about device security. Discussions about what we’re comfortable pushing as endpoint security and what we’re unable to do – because certainly, we don’t want to create any harm to patients. Many of these devices and the vendors who manage them, it’s very hard to go direct on patching and adding security.”
While medical devices are generally tested extensively for safety, some cybersecurity experts have observed the same cannot necessarily be said for security. Brian NeSmith, co-founder and CEO of cyber security company Arctic Wolf Networks, has stated:
“Medical devices, similar to many other IoT devices, were not designed with rigorous security in mind and are more vulnerable to being hacked. They also do not fall under normal security operations procedures since they are used as needed by the medical practitioners and not deployed and maintained by the IT department.”
Security experts are emphasizing the importance of security patches. Optimistically, Richard Staynings, the principal cybersecurity healthcare leader at Cisco’s Security unit, believes:
“This is going to cause a paradigm shift, at least for patching.”
As the medical device market continues to grow, the medical device industry has strived to reduce costs through outsourcing. An industry report has found that the global medical device outsourcing market was valued at $33.2 billion in 2016, and is projected to continue to grow. The medical device industry is outsourcing not only the manufacturing of medical devices, but also associated services, such as regulatory consulting and contract manufacturing, to medical device service providers. Medical device manufacturers and outsourced medical device service providers should be conscious of the regulatory and legal ramifications of the delocalization associated with the outsourcing that is increasingly common in today’s global market.
While outsourcing has traditionally been linked to manufacturing, outsourcing of services has become a major growth engine in the medical device industry. Outsourced services include regulatory consulting, product design and development, testing and sterilization, implementation, upgrades, maintenance, and manufacturing contracts. Regulatory consulting, which in 2015 already commanded over 50% of the outsourcing market for services, is particularly expected to grow. Regulatory consulting includes services directed to compliance with national agencies that approve and continually monitor the safety of medical devices, including the F.D.A. in the United States and the E.F.S.A. in Europe. In addition, contract manufacturing is reported to be the fasted growing service in the medical device industry and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of over 11.5% through 2025.
There are several benefits associated with medical device outsourcing. According to an MDDI article, outsourcing can help original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) accelerate time to market for a new product, and speed up return on investment. Furthermore, the article states outsourcing can provide specialized knowledge, expertise, and facilities without the significant resources required to acquire such expertise in house. Moreover, outsourcing can leverage the pre-existing large supply chain of the contractor.
However, outsourcing also carries potential risks. The issues associated with outsourcing so many aspects of services uniquely associated with the medical device industry may not be as well known or well understood as the issues presented by outsourcing manufacturing. According to another MDDI article, these issues may include an increased risk of civil lawsuits from consumers of medical devices. This is especially true as medical devices become increasingly digital, and cybersecurity vulnerabilities are found. The medical device industry may also face increased regulatory scrutiny from national agencies as more regulatory compliance is outsourced to consulting services. Consequently, the medical device industry and medical device legal community will increasingly face new challenges from a world in which more and more industry services are outsourced.