A weekly blockchain and healthcare newsletter highlighting important ideas and updates

Got forwarded this email? Subscribe here.
Subscriber? This newsletter is free, and if you find it valuable the best way you can support it is to share it with others.
Welcome
For the past 25 Sundays I've sent out a free blockchain and healthcare with top stories and ideas. I'm proud that leaders from some of the world’s top healthcare and life sciences organizations receive and read my newsletter every week. 

Now twice a year I’m going to be putting out a report on the state of blockchain and healthcare summarizing 6 months worth of news. Whereas my newsletter contains week to week updates, this report will take a more high level look at industry trends and contain more long form commentary. As always, I'll be experimenting to find the best way to add value, and am open to ideas. This inaugural edition of the biannual report will be free, but future editions will likely not be. 

2019 has been an exciting year. As I reviewed the stories I had curated for my readers I noticed three trends that stood out:
  1. Major new business networks are being formed
  2. Acquisitions and venture capital investment are at an all time high
  3. Supply chain applications of blockchain are seeing the most activity in healthcare
I highlight each of these trends in this report, unpacking stories, giving context, and sharing commentary. Further, there are a number of stories which are notable, but which didn’t fit neatly into a trend that I’ve included at the end.

There is deeply important work being carried out today that has the potential to be the foundation for healthcare tomorrow. I hope this report serves as a useful guide to that work and can play some role in ushering in tomorrow’s better healthcare system.

Download the report here

If you find it valuable I would be very grateful if you shared it with others.
Blockchain in healthcare updates
NYT Opinion article on selling health data mentions some blockchain startups
The article is a part of a broader series by the New York Times on privacy. It takes a critical look at the movement to treat your data as "your property." Much of this discussion centers around Humanity, a startup championing a 31st human right which would assert that your data is your property. I was unimpressed by their description of blockchains, they conflate using a blockchain to manage access to data with literally storing data on-chain.

The NYT points out the sensitivity around our health data and how property rights are often curtailed in the public's interest (e.g. we don't let people sell their kidneys.) They point out some problems with the metaphor of data as property and end with a look at a state level legislative initiative by Humanity, but without discussing what the proper way of treating health data is.

Directionally I think the idea of "data as property" is correct. Our data is being used without our consent or knowledge on a mass scale, and I am also working towards ending that practice. But, as a metaphor I think data as property is critically flawed.

Property is alienable, your data is not. If you sold your property to someone else it can be disassociated from you entirely. Your data, particularly your health data, never can be disassociated from you. It will always be about you and tied to you, even when "deidentified." When you share your data to another party you're not only sharing 0s and 1s. You're sharing a digital representation of yourself. People don't "own" themselves as property, and their data isn't their "property" either.

That's not to say that I don't think people should ever be compensated for their health data per se, in fact the opposite is true. But we need a metaphor that offers a more compelling framework for thinking about data. There are many candidates: commodity, biospecimen, blood, oil, etc but I am most sympathetic towards the idea of thinking of data as labor. As with labor health data can be exploited and with this way of thinking we can naturally leverage a number of useful frameworks, like human rights and collective bargaining, to protect individuals from harms arising from power differentials.

A coauthor and I have a draft of a paper exploring this metaphor here, and I'd encourage my readers to send me feedback if you read it.

From FedTech Magazine: The FDA wants to Use Blockchain to Keep Food Safe
FedTech pulled together a number of quotes from Frank Yiannis, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response, and a former exec at Walmart who was involved in Foodtrust. These are all old quotes, and likely stories I've shared here, but it's nice to read them in one place.

A blockchain-based distributed public database for electron tomography
Someone tweeted this really cool paper at me. You can have a look at the live system here.

MediLedger's product verification solution goes live
The MediLedger project has been working on a solution for complying with the upcoming first milestone in the Drug Supply Chain Security Act ("DSCSA"). Their launch comes in advance of the November 2019 regulatory deadline, and is an important event as our industry adds another working product to its arsenal. You can read about that product in more depth here. Their next products will be around streamlining chargebacks and complying with the next DSCSA deadline.

I'll be on a ConsenSys webinar talking about blockchain in healthcare on Thursday
Tune in on July 11th from 12 - 1pm ET!
What I'm reading this weekend
The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance released a Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index
One of the oft-cited debates around blockchains and cryptocurrencies centers around their power consumption. The folks over at Cambridge created this as a way of creating transparency and informing the debate. They use some cool math to come at these numbers, and offer some valuable comparisons to put Bitcoin's energy usage in perspective. Spend a few minutes browsing this.

The ETH 2.0 phase 0 spec was froze
Ethereum is moving as fast as it can towards a next generation, more scalable, version of itself. They have laid out several phases to achieve the end goal of moving to "sharding" and "proof of stake." But being decentralized makes realizing this vision a hard task. There are multiple, parallel, independent teams working on ETH2.0; the Ethereum Foundation Research team does core research and ideation and then there are a handful of other teams implementing that research.

In the past implementation teams have fully implemented and tested specific tech only to find that the research team has iterated and there would need to be major changes. So, with this spec freeze that won't happen again anymore and implementation teams can focus on building. It's an exciting milestone and an interesting case study for decentralized and community maintained technology.

More privacy tech on Ethereum
This mixer lets people "mix" their Ethereum, allowing you to regain your privacy even in a public, pseudonymous blockchain by trustlessly swapping it out for other Ethereum in a way that others can't pry into. It's built using linkable ring signatures and pseduo stealth addresses, and is live on the Ropsten testnet right now. The tech is seriously cool, and it makes me bullish for the future of Ethereum that random people around the planet are building stuff like this all the time.

Libra, 2 weeks in
On the back of an announcement that he would appear before Congress on the 16th, David Marcus penned a note addressing some talking points that have emerged in the past 2 weeks of discussion about Libra. Nothing earth shattering here, but worth keeping an eye on.

The Bank of International Settlements is working with central banks to launch their own cryptocurrencies
The Bank of International Settlements, a sort of central bank for central banks, announced it would work with other central banks if they wanted to issue their own digital currencies (cryptocurrencies) and that several central banks were already looking at that. That is a big turn around from their previous stated opinion and it seems to me that Libra is already having an impact on perception and adoption of blockchains/cryptocurrencies. 
Have content or an event you think should be featured? Reply to this email with a link and a description of why you think it should be shared.
Tweet this newsletter