Proof Work aims to decentralize medical data by using the blockchain

Tel Aviv-based Proof Work is envisioning a future where patients own and control their own medical data in a decentralized system, where data is secured by the blockchain. The system, if successful, would be a big disruption to how health care data is handled today – where it’s often accessible only by the doctors and hospitals themselves, and where patients have to make special requests to have a copy of their own medical records.

In addition, today’s data isn’t easily shared between doctors. That means patients visiting a new doctor will often have to repeat their medical history all over again, or explain their current ailments.

Proof Work, which presented today onstage as the wildcard company at Disrupt Berlin Startup Battlefield, believes the system should be simpler. The company is building tools that will allow healthcare companies to put their apps and services on the blockchain, as well as a tool – likely in the form of a mobile app first – that will allow patients to upload their own medical data to this blockchain-powered system.

“It’s a big try,” admits co-founder David Suter. “But we want to go patient-first.”

“As somebody who walks into a doctor or a hospital, there are many moving parts that are put into place behind the scenes in order to make sure we get the right level of care, the right treatment. All those moving parts are siloed,” Suter says. “What blockchain allows through smart contracts is to put all those moving parts on a longitudinal line in order to talk to each other.”

In the future, the goal is to allow patients to walk into a doctor’s office with all their medical records already on their phone.

“It’s a big undertaking; It’s not going to happen overnight,” he adds.

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In addition, patients – not doctors – should get to decide what happens to those records, says Suter. Today, doctors will have patients sign agreements to allow them to share their medical data. In some cases, that includes allowing healthcare companies to sell anonymized medical data to pharmaceutical companies. With Proof Work, patients could choose to contribute their data or sell it, and the transactions would be transparent.

The company’s starting point for this larger idea of medical records powered by the blockchain is  a mobile app focused on non-adherence – meaning, the app will remind users to take their current medications through push notifications.

This isn’t the first attempt to use technology to fix the problem with medical records; others have tried to centralize records for easier access, including Microsoft HealthVault, for example.

One of the challenges getting prior systems to work was that healthcare companies aren’t necessarily interested in making it easier for patients to have access to their own medical records, says Suter. After all, the patients could go to another provider.

Suter believes the companies would be more willing to participate in a system like Proof Work, because they’ll have access to more data, because Proof Work users can choose to sell and share their data with them – where they’re paid for those transfers in Proof Work’s coin.

Proof Work is planning an ICO in six months to create its own coin that will allow the data to be traded. Insurance companies could then incentivize patients to take their medications by offering to pay them with the coin. The longer-term monetization plan is to take a small percentage of the transactions on its platform, including these data transfers or incentives.

The company, co-founded by Guy Aharonovsky, whose background is in cyber security, hopes to have its first application for consumers out in six months.