Analysis of the potential of blockchain to complement the healthcare sector of the economy
Analysis

Analysis of the potential of blockchain to complement the healthcare sector of the economy

John Williams
John Williams

Blockchain technology has massive applications in almost every industry out there, and while some have accepted it with open arms, others are a bit more reserved and skeptical. Take healthcare as an example. Blockchain could do great things in healthcare according to researchers and blockchain enthusiasts, from keeping track of medical equipment shipments to allowing secure patient data management. From helping researchers collaborate and share knowledge safely, to helping develop new cures for current and future diseases in combination with AI and ML technologies. From preventing hacking attacks, to providing faster, cheaper, and better patient care.

However, a lot of it remains theoretical, at the moment. Blockchain adoption is slow. One reason for this is that public blockchain tend to be too slow for such a colossal project. Solving the issue with private blockchains is still too complex. Interoperability is still in its early days. But, even though solving all of these and other issues will take years, if not decades, that doesn’t mean that there are no applications and use cases of blockchain technology that cannot be applied already.

One example is using blockchain as a massive database, and then adding machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze data faster and cheaper, and come up with new medicine for new diseases, or for those that the healthcare industry has not figured out how to cure as of yet. Clinical trials of medications and therapies are currently filled with all sorts of issues. Not only is it a slow process that takes years to do the tests and come up with definitive results, but it can be extremely expensive. Clinical trials currently cost between $600,000 and $8 million per day.

The cost is too high, while the process is too slow, which does not only leave the patients waiting, but it wastes a lot of money that can be used in more efficient ways. Meanwhile, with blockchain technology combined with ML and AI, researchers would get an immutable tool that would offer powerful and insightful data analytics functionality across administrative, operational, and clinical functions.

In other words, blockchain could speed up the process of testing new medication by reducing the need to go through trial and error during the tests. Emerging technologies could figure out issues before they emerge during the tests and prevent them from negatively impacting the trials, thus saving time and money simply by eliminating the majority of the wrong paths early on. In fact, this is what the project ClinTex is working on right now, so I reached out to Neill Barron, Director of Data Analytics at ClinTex to get more insights about the industry.

What would you say are the biggest problems in your project’s niche right now?

In short, "Silos of data". Even within a pharmaceutical company's organisational boundaries, operational, financial and clinical data relating to clinical trials are held in various repositories, never connected and therefore, not being utilised fully to extract real value and insights.

When we magnify this across all the pharma industry and the > 350000 clinical trials ongoing at any one time, the scale of the opportunity to harness and collaborate on clinical trial intelligence is huge and currently a massive missed opportunity. ClinTex CTi will transform this opportunity into real value for patients, the pharma industry and token holders.

Clinical trials are extremely slow, expensive, and long-lasting. How much can the blockchain speed them up?

The Covid pandemic has exemplified that when big pharma collaborate around data, the impact can seem miraculous, delivering multiple covid vaccines in 10% of the time it normally would take. So that maybe gives you an idea of the potential of data collaboration if this can be extended to all clinical trials, not just Covid related. Data is the oil which can lubricate the clinical trial process, and we see our CTi platform as the engine to deliver this power from data.

Where blockchain shines is in it’s interoperability qualities, which can be realised through the use of sophisticated APIs to make EHR interoperability and data storage a reliable process. With blockchain data being shared with authorised stakeholders in a secure and standardised way, this eliminates the cost and burden associated with data reconciliation while simultaneously making the data more secure and accessible.

Are there any examples already where blockchain and other emerging technologies were used in such a way?

The big one is the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), which is exploring various use cases of blockchain in clinical trials, through its "Pharmaledger" project. The primary areas being explored are around clinical trials supply chain management and identification of patients suitable for clinical trials.

Other companies in the blockchain space are looking at ways to bring raw clinical data on chain, but in our opinion this approach to using blockchain is fraught with regulatory obstacles.  As pharma companies are naturally reluctant to change after having invested billions in their own data capture and storage systems, ClinTex are leveraging existing regulatory compliant source systems and SDTM data standards that already exist in pharma to generate and enable collaboration with insightful analytics.

We want CTi to be seamless for the industry to adopt.

If blockchain was used for such things earlier, do you think it could have stopped the rapid progression of COVID-19?

I think the whole world is aware that data transparency in the early days of the Covid pandemic was almost non-existent. Early warning signs were missed and we now know that deaths recorded as far back as 2019 can be attributed to early Covid-19 infections.

Lack of data collaboration around leading metrics (such as number of positive tests) meant that the world was practically blind to where we were headed and in that respect, blockchain could have played an important role.

We have seen how vaccines can be delivered in super quick time. Now the momentum is with us to repeat this across other diseases with unmet need like cancer, heart disease, other infectious diseases, and respiratory illness. Blockchain as a technology, and Clintex CTi as a platform, are well placed to play a central role in this new world.

Collaboration between the researchers seems to be a major factor. Is it increasing or are international barriers and unsafe data sharing too limiting?

Lack of data collaboration across organisational, economic and territorial borders is a big problem in the pharma industry. Pharma companies tend not to take into account the mistakes and bottlenecks in others' clinical trials, and often do not even learn from their own mistakes and bottlenecks, and repeat the same issues over and over.

ClinTex see "mistakes" and "bottlenecks" as opportunities to make a clinical trial run smoother, and so data collaboration is key to this. And the lack of data collaboration  is a real barrier that ClinTex seek to overcome.

How can ClinTex help solve this?

Those who are conducting clinical trials e.g. Big Pharma, are reluctant to collaborate in order to safeguard their own intellectual property. This is understandable as their raw clinical data can hold insights that erode their competitive advantage.

Insights through analytics on the CTi platform protects that IP whilst still sharing metrics around clinical, operational and financial performance of a clinical trial. The CTi data model is derived from raw clinical data held on the established data capture technology at the pharma company.

But the CTi data model is an aggregated view of this data and therefore IP is not compromised, but the level of data aggregation still allows insightful metrics to be developed and shared both intra-company and inter-company. Metrics such as adverse event rates, early withdrawals, protocol compliance etc can not only help to improve the conduct of an existing trial, but can also provide insight to optimally design the next clinical trial. And the more data we collect, the more powerful our insights become, allowing the development of predictive algorithms to actually prevent any clinical trial quality issues and delays before they even happen.

CTi offers seven separate apps with which it tackles the issue. Can you tell us more about them?

Each of the 7 apps are designed to address distinct pain points that regularly occur during a typical clinical trial. For example, the CTi-OEM app is focused specifically on identifying the operational bottlenecks such as data queries, protocol deviations, patient withdrawals etc. whereas CTi-CDV is focused on patient safety and exploring the clinical merit of the data so medical decisions can be made instream during a clinical trial.

Other apps like CTi-PRR, CTi-SIM and CTi-VMM are centred around the onboarding and management of patient, medical investigators and vendors to support efficient clinical trial conduct and management.

The metrics generated in these apps can then be pooled in the CTi-PDA app and used to drive predictive algorithms so issues affecting clinical trial performance and quality can be predicted with a high degree of probability, before they even happen.

What would be the role of your CTi Token?

The CTi token is an integral part of creating an eco-system for the CTi platform – through the use of the token it is envisioned the platform will form it’s own micro-economy which will allow ClinTex to keep the cost of using the platform down.

For example, when clients on-board the platform and their tokens are staked and removed from the pool, the reduced supply + combined with marketing efforts from the team is expected to have a value driving effect on tokens remaining in pool (the holders), thus allowing the stakeholders (who are also token holders) to be rewarded that way – over say a fiat or even another crypto token fee model, which would also work, however in that case the clients charge for a licence would need to have the full cost of research & development of the platform and data used built into it, and ultimately passed onto the end user, which in this case would be patient with medical needs.

ClinTex’s ultimate mission is to drive down the cost of medicine. With that in mind, we believe that the use by the CTi ecosystem of its own native token for the model to achieve this goal, is not only justified but critical to the project.

On a sidenote, that also aligns ClinTexs’s goals with that of most token sale participants, I believe, in that value being driven to the token is a target of the business long term also.

You also introduced CTi staking. What is the role of staking in ClinTexs mission?

We rolled out CTi staking earlier this year as a way to thank our community for the patience they have shown in sticking by the project during the development process.  

We had originally planned to do a final token sale but when we were offered the opportunity of a direct listing on KuCoin we changed plan and brought the token straight to market. This meant there was excess tokens in the sale allocation (no more can ever be minted).

We initially considered doing a token burn, but then thought this distribution model was a better way to  both engage the community and thank the current token holders for their faith in us in the run up to the platform launch next month.

Lastly, what are the next steps for ClinTex?

Right now we are focused on delivery of the next step of our road map. This is the delivery of the CTI-OEM app, which is currently at iteration 26 in our agile development cycle, which has been a great achievement by the team. We are on track to deliver this during first week in July.

Closely following that will come a major marketing drive - both in the pharma world and the cryptocurrency space, including chasing some top tier exchanges.

We aim to see both our platform and our token at the top levels of both fields.