How do you encourage someone to change his or her behavior? The answer has been with us for ages: you find an incentive.
Incentives mechanisms are at the core of blockchain technology and are designed to insure the correct functioning of the system. They are designed to influence the behavior of a participants by changing the cost/benefit balance in favor of an action that benefits the system. For instance, the Bitcoin protocol incentivizes miners to participate to the network by rewarding them bitcoins.
But if we move away from Bitcoin and blockchain, incentives are everywhere around us. The most common ones are financial incentives such as bonuses or long-term stock-based incentives. Whatever they are, their goal is to weight on an individual’s decision and encourage a specific behavior.
In healthcare, each stakeholder wants different things from the other parties in the ecosystem. For instance, the pharmaceutical industry might look for more real-world data, payers might want to encourage preventive medicine and healthcare professionals might seek better treatment adherence from their patients. There are many ways all these goals can be achieved but blockchain-based incentives are definitely worth exploring.
Incentivize healthy behavior
Wellness and healthy lifestyles are growing bigger and bigger. The Global Wellness Institute estimates it is a $3.7 trillion market worldwide. However, changing a person’s habits and behavior is a difficult task and often requires a personalized approach and a lot of time. Through gamification and incentives, blockchain startups are providing new innovative solutions to encourage healthy behaviors.
As clearly stated on their website, “Clinicoin is an open source wellness platform that rewards users with cryptocurrency for engaging in healthy activities.”. Both patients (called users) and healthcare industry stakeholders (providers) can participate to this ecosystem:
In a Nasdaq interview co-founder Noel Chandler have a precise example of how the platform can be used: “It is estimated that each missed appointment costs a doctor $125, a significant cost that can add up quickly. Doctors can use Clinicoin not only to send their patients a reminder to show up for their appointments, but to let them know that by showing up on time, they’ll be rewarded with a certain number of CLIN tokens, effectively gamifying the experience.”
Lympo is another example of an app that allows users to earn money when they walk or run: “Complete walking and running challenges, receive rewards and buy products you love from the in-app marketplace.” Through the built-in marketplace and thanks to multiple partnerships, users can spend their coins on things like NBA tickets, sport equipment or Amazon gift cards.
Lympo also has two different uses for corporations:
- Marketing by creating sponsored challenges and gain new clients;
- Corporate health by creating company-wide challenges for employees and collaborators to promote healthy lifestyle.
Incentivize preventive medicine practices
In diseases such as breast cancer, early detection can have a great impact on the outcomes and depending on the age, different preventive actions can be taken. Unfortunately, women are not always aware of these measures and breast cancers are sometimes diagnosed too late. The same scenario applies to a wide range of diseases that can be prevented or better treated if detected early.
Blockchain-based incentives can be used to encourage patients to take these preventive measures and hopefully allow them to identify potential disease before they manifest. Payers such as insurance companies can benefit from such a system and provide the rewards necessary for the system’s functioning.
If you know companies working on such projects, please let me know!
Incentivize data collection
With healthcare is turning towards digital technologies, it becomes more and more crucial for companies to be able to collect, analyze and gain insight into data, especially if it comes from the patient. However, between data providers and data users there is rarely a direct path and many third-party companies gather and process the data before selling it to the final data user. The purpose of this section is not to discuss whether or not the patient should benefit from the monetization of its data but rather to understand if blockchain-based incentives can encourage patients to share more qualitative data with any stakeholder that might need it.
The platform is designed as a migraine journal that helps patients keep track of their crisis and share the data with their doctors during visits. But Bowhead Health’s migraine tracker app also allows patients to share their anonymized data with researchers and doctors and contribute to improve the treatment strategies. In exchange of this, patients are given rewards by the platform.
This concept can be taken much further and applied to all areas of healthcare where data is needed with the appropriate data privacy and security settings. These fields include but are not limited to rare diseases, chronic diseases, real-world evidence, minorities, low-income countries and data deserts, remote clinical trials, etc. Opportunities are limitless.
One of the main barriers to such systems is the data collection and validation process. How do you make sure that the data submitted that triggers the reward is correct? In order to ensure the authenticity of the data, one can either act of the source of the data or the validation process once it is collected. If data comes directly from a wearable or a third-party source rather than directly from the user, a higher level of quality can be expected. However, this can be reinforced by a validation process done either manually (by identified validators) or automatically (through machine learning techniques).Once this aspect is tackled, the number of possibilities to create incentives for behavioral change are infinite.
At a time when new technologies seem to be the source of reckless and harmful behavior, could blockchain, of all technologies, be the lever for virtuous behavior?