My 6-year old son dreams that “people will never get sick”. What a simple yet powerful idea – yet preventable / lifestyle diseases are today the #1 cause of human mortality, globally. They overtook infectious disease in 2013 — for the first time in human history.
And while we understand many of the things necessary to keep ourselves from getting sick – we are unable to put them to work.
For I believe, three key reasons:
- The money is in treatment not prevention – roughly 95% of current healthcare expenditure goes into treatment.
- Health insurance programs don’t typically cover biometric testing, gym memberships, exercise equipment. personal training or nutrition and mindfulness coaching – precisely what constitutes a preventive program.
- Humans have a tendency not to act until they have a health scare.
And so, despite all the talk, prevention is left mostly to personal initiative.
Could blockchain tech help solve this?
Last year, I led a small team that won one of two tracks at the World Blockchain Hackathon – we built a prototype solution to reward individuals with a crypto-currency token (“Wello”) based on their fitness level – which they could use to pay for wellness services.
What if we could broaden this idea to eventually recognize a variety of preventive health behaviors? Imagine that you are awarded a crypto-currency token (like Bitcoin but for health – let’s call this “Wello” for now) each time you accomplish a health goal.
Which you can use to pay for preventive health services — provided by other humans. Without the need for any other intermediaries to worry about — no healthcare organizations, insurance companies, governments, etc. etc.
This essentially changes the incentive structure and also enables people to access a wide range of preventive services, potentially for free, right on their mobile phones.
How does the currency obtain value?
For a currency to gain value, it needs to support a thriving economy. Healthcare is a very significant part of any economy – as more people participate and more services are offered within the Wello ecosystem, that will increase currency value – which accrues to everyone!
Here are three ways the Wello ecosystem could grow:
- By trading services: we all have wellness needs, everyone of us. The Wello a provider earns can be used to pay for a service they want within the system – creating a a thriving, self-contained Wello economy.
- Corporate incentives: Companies in the US spend ~$660/annum per employees on wellness, much of it in perks. And many are looking for ways to outsource their wellness needs — which could be as easy as buying Wello for employees to spend.
- Insurance programs: Each additional year an individual stays healthy saves the healthcare system (in the US) ~$0.5m in potential expenses. The insurance model is predicated on having healthy individuals in the mix – allowing for example individuals to pay their insurances premiums with Wello would enhance the incentive for preventive health and reduce costs for insurance programs.
Why create a crypto-currency?
Why not just use a points system — like many wellness programs already do? Why complicate things by building this on the blockchain and launching a crypto-currency? isn’t that the territory of scam artists 🙂
Using an independent, open, transparent, universally tradeable crypto-currency offers a whole bunch of advantages integral to solving this problem of incenting preventive health:
- Break out of silos: Right now most such programs are contained within a company, app, insurance program — you can’t spend your wellness points on merchandise outside of these closed systems. By creating a universally tradeable crypto-currency we break those silos and immediately enhance value to the user.
- Maintain privacy: By using the public blockchain to award points, we can build a system that doesn’t need a privately maintained database that needs to store personal information. And no — we don’t need to put personal data on the blockchain to achieve this. The system can be designed to be pseudo-anonymous so that everyone’s data remains their own property.
- Leverage wider innovation: By putting this on the blockchain, we essentially benefit from the energies of every startup building wellness solutions, who believe in these same principles — public blockchains are inherently plug and play.
Next step: seeking feedback
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