Blockchain-Meets-Healthcare Hackathon Launch Follows a Day of Academic, Industry Discussions
On Saturday, September 22nd, 2018, Z Park Innovation Center (“Z Park”) hosted Unblock the Blockchain, a one-day blockchain and healthcare summit in Cambridge, MA.
The event saw about 100 people in attendance to hear some of the brightest minds across both industries speak on the latest blockchain developments in the healthcare ecosystem. Topics of note included challenges of early adoption for healthcare blockchain, the effect of token initiatives on healthcare financing, and the place of blockchain infrastructure in the healthcare ecosystem.
One such speaker was Shada Alsalamah, a Visiting Scholar at MIT Media Lab, who highlighted the ways in which blockchain could empower both individuals and healthcare providers. Blockchain has the global potential to give people a distributed way to manage their medical data, Alsalamah explained, and ultimately “Let them [patients] sit in the driver seat.”
Challenges of adoption were presented alongside opportunities. Leah Houston, founder of the Humanitarian Physicians Empowerment Community (HPEC), outlined some of the barriers facing any technology facing early adoption in the healthcare industry. In overcoming hurdles like regulations and security, Houston said, “It goes back to the people. Physicians are extremely skeptical… we want to make sure we’re doing the right thing for ourselves, for our patients.”
Joonho Lee, General Partner at Kryptoconomy, provided closing remarks for the conference. With his main points, including the strikingly-worded “What Job Causes You to Hire Blockchain?” Lee asked attendants to consider the advantages unique to blockchain in pursuing its adoption. He drew a connection between the emergence of blockchain and a butterfly undergoing metamorphosis: “The shift [into adopting blockchain technologies] is going to be painful, it’s going to be ugly – but blockchain is really transformative.”
Response to Unblock The Blockchain has been overwhelmingly positive. Nicholas White, CEO of Helix3 and panel speaker, commented, “I had a great time at [Z Park] with my co-panelists discussing how blockchain infrastructure will impact the future of healthcare.” Jennifer Jiang, co-founder of BlockTEST and Director of Fintech/Blockchain at Z Park, added, “It’s truly a privilege to host a day with a group of like-minded, mission-driven folks to discuss on a very timely topic.”
Unblock the Blockchain was highlighted by the grand launch of HealthChainHack, a virtual hackathon aiming to transcribe blockchain innovations into advancements for the early-stage drug development industry.
The air was festive as conference attendees counted down with BlockTEST co-founder Jennifer Jiang, who cut a ceremonial red ribbon to signify the kickoff of BlockTEST’s two-month long hackathon. The hackathon, Jiang explained, could be the next big step in the overlap between the healthcare and blockchain spaces. BlockTEST designed HealthChainHack not simply as a competition, but rather as an opportunity in which to foster budding blockchain projects with the intention of their going to market. In a sense, HealthChainHack is BlockTEST’s practical answer to some of the theoretical challenges of early adoption that industry professionals had outlined earlier in the day.
Jiang pointed out that the process of bringing drug development innovations to market is “time consuming, costly, and often very unsuccessful.” Through HealthChainHack, she wants to use smart contracts to take a proactive role in data sharing, patent development, and financial sponsorships.
Kim Yao, VP Software Engineer at BlockTEST, took the stage to explain the company’s testnet – an intelligent platform for evaluating blockchain projects based on objective performance measures. He prefaced his more in-depth technical breakdown of the technology with a explanatory video, boiled down into layman’s terms: “[BlockTEST’s testnet] provides a consistent platform for blockchain providers and dApps developers to simulate and evaluate the performance of blockchain solutions.”
BlockTEST’s testnet will act as the “quantitative judge” in HealthChainHack, ranking projects based on measures such as throughput, scalability, latency, and more, Yao explained. He followed up with a real-time demo of the testnet in action, showing how hackathon participants will utilize it to analyze the performance of their projects throughout the competition and exactly how the testnet will rank each project.
The transparent demo laid bare both the inner and outer workings of the testnet, as conference attendants were able to see in action responsive visualizations of its ranking system, as well as excerpts of code from its development process.
Throughout the contest, participants can submit their projects to BlockTEST’s testnet twice to get a better understanding of how their projects perform, to compare against the leading projects, and to evaluate which measures should be improved upon. A third and final submission to be judged will be due between November 8th and November 10th.