Transforming cancer care with blockchain technology

  • Every individual involved in the care of a cancer patient is in search of tools that can save time and improve efficiency, but the current approach has to change

  • Harnessing a social determinant of health (SDoH) model can give providers and patients the power to help drive participation and build a robust community

  • Applying blockchain technology and digital security token can help engage the cancer community and solve some of the complex oncology market’s challenges

Karthik Koduru chief oncologist and co-founder at Witty Health explores how to have a positive impact on patient outcomes in oncology, when meaningful engagement with all cancer stakeholders remains a challenge

The common goal that we all strive for as professionals in healthcare – no matter the disease state or specialty – is to have a positive impact on outcomes and help people live longer, healthier lives. Experience has taught us that in order to do this in today’s dynamic environment, we must have sustained patient engagement.

Though the cancer community is more active than other areas of healthcare, a meaningful level of engagement across all stakeholders has been difficult to achieve for a variety of reasons. In many cases, patients are overwhelmed by their diagnosis and the path before them. They also may feel too ill to sustain involvement with digital tools. Similarly, caregivers are often dealing with complex issues from coordination of care to financial considerations, all while trying to meet the emotional needs of their loved ones.

And as oncologists, we face challenges as well. In 2016, there were 1.7 million cancers diagnosed in the US. That translates to an average of 130 new patients per oncologist. That’s a lot of appointments given that an oncologist sees each new patient an average of 10 times in the first six months. Couple this with the fact that the number of cancer survivors is expected to be over 20 million by 2026, and you can imagine the strain faced by oncologists and other medical professionals. The fact is, our medical schools and residency programmes simply can’t keep up with the demand.

From my own experience in practice, I can tell you that every individual involved in the care of a cancer patient is in search of tools that can save time and improve efficiency. If oncologists are to effectively treat patients, if patients are to access the care and services they need and if partners along the continuum of care – like advocacy groups and payers – are to connect in a meaningful way, something needed to change.

The challenge was how to develop the right tools, using the right platform, to encourage high levels of sustained engagement and truly impact outcomes.

A collective solution in cancer care

As a team of practicing oncologists and industry professionals, we realised that to be successful, we had to work together with all stakeholders so that, collectively, we could be part of the solution. A traditional top-down approach wouldn’t work. Unfortunately, we have seen it fail before. Provider or insurer developed tools have actually been counter-productive as they often increase administrative burden and decrease patient engagement.

That is why at Witty Health, we have introduced OncoPower – bringing blockchain technology and a digitally generated security token to the healthcare space to improve cancer care by leveraging behavioural economics to motivate patients and providers to actively engage with the digital health tools we provide. By bringing together specialty expertise, evidence-based practice and workflow understanding – we developed a more decentralised model, a vertical solution that works from the ground-up.

OncoPower includes two distinct features: Onco-Klinic for content and interactions related to clinical care, and Onco-Space, dedicated to patient advocacy activities. By utilising blockchain technology, we have created a secure database to capture all health-related experiences to provide a means of autonomous and decentralised care delivery and support.

Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have been more favourable to innovative technologies in recent years. We at OncoPower have taken a proactive approach with both of these agencies to ensure that our tools meet all regulatory compliance concerns in both the healthcare/digital device and securities realm. We understand that blockchain technology cannot solve all of the challenges we face in the complex oncology market; however, it is the ideal tool to build an autonomous and fully transparent community designed to create value and reward participants.

Through OncoPower, our Onco securities are issued to users for engaging and adding value to the community. We want the users of the ecosystem to benefit from their role in this care as this can take a number of forms. A significant way this model can provide value is through treatment adherence. For example, a healthcare insurer may enter into a smart contract with a breast cancer patient to offer a certain number of Oncos monthly if the patient does not miss a medication dose during that month.

Another unique aspect of OncoPower is that it includes a social determinant of health (SDoH) model, giving both providers and patients the power to help drive participation and build a robust community. OncoPower provides a secure online environment for patients and providers to share expertise, experience and support one another.

This means that content is continually evaluated by the users themselves through voting algorithms. For example, the list of top advocacy resources patients can find on OncoPower will have been up-voted by other patients and caregivers based on their personal experiences, and those users receive Oncos for adding value to the community. The application then organises information and best practice patterns easily for the community, saving users time and ensuring the quality and reliability of resources.

Participants can then use Oncos as a medium of exchange within OncoPower for services rendered between community members. For example, oncologists can exchange Oncos for consultations or patients can use Oncos to receive services like a personalised nutrition plan from a dietitian or a consultation with a patient advocacy representative.

It’s important to note that securing patient data and complying with FDA regulations during OncoPower’s development were our core concerns. It is designed to ensure information security within every feature. All information shared on the platform is captured and maintained with the highest standards of data protection.

As the OncoPower community grows, we expect all users to benefit through reduced expenses, increased access to points of care and improved quality of care overall. Our goal is that, once fully implemented, OncoPower will facilitate effective monitoring and precision cancer care for over 15 million cancer patients and 55 million cancer survivors.

The oncology space is going through a rapid transformation as many new drugs and therapies enter the market. Harnessing the power of feedback from the individuals that are a part of this community is key to quickly adapting precision medicine principles. OncoPower engages with each member of the community throughout the development process to ensure that the tools being built result in meaningful engagement that is the cornerstone of quality care.

About the Author

Karthik Koduru, MD is the Co-Founder and Chief Oncologist of OncoPower, a subsidiary of Witty Health, Inc. OncoPower is a physician-designed platform built on block-chain technology. Using cryptocurrency, OncoPower aims to reward patients for medication adherence, real-time reporting of side effects, personal genomic data and positive lifestyle changes. Oncologists are rewarded for content creation, virtual tumor boards as well as real-time monitoring of medication side effects and patient outcomes. Prior to co-founding OncoPower, Dr. Koduru also founded PulsedIn, Inc which is a multi-utility social platform for physicians, patients, and organizations. He has a strong passion for teaching and has designed and founded successful Archer online test prep courses for medical students.  Dr.Koduru has several years of experience as an Oncologist and serves on board of directors of Illinois Medical Oncology Society. He continues to work full time as an Oncologist at Quincy Medical Group while contributing to OncoPower with a goal to improve the quality of life and the care delivered to the patients fighting cancer.

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