Patient Verification and The State of Blockchain Adoption with Shyft Network CEO Bruce Silcoff

From prior authorization to cannabinoid oil, Medgadget has recently covered a range of companies leveraging blockchain technology to impact one or more aspects of healthcare. For this piece, similar to our conversation with technology thought leader David Houlding, we wanted to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. How broadly is blockchain being adopted, what are enterprise healthcare organizations using it for, and where are we in the adoption cycle of this promising, yet unseasoned technology? To answer these questions and more, Medgadget heard from Bruce Silcoff, CEO of Shyft Network. Bruce also shared some insight into Shyft’s efforts to build a blockchain-based network for data protection that sets new standards for Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) while reducing the cost of verification. Check out Shyft’s white paper for more details.


Medgadget, Michael Batista: In our introduction, there was an IBM quote that 16% of healthcare executives are “planning to incorporate blockchain technology into their facilities within the next year.” What does that number represent to you about the healthcare industry’s level of acceptance and adoption of blockchain technology? Are we about to see blockchain technology take off in healthcare or are we still in the proof of concept stage?

Bruce Silcoff: When we see statistics like these cited by IBM — 16% of healthcare executives are “planning to incorporate blockchain technology into their facilities within the next year”– we think it reflects the trend and proves that blockchain is here to stay. That crucial group of early-adopters will always be in the minority; if you consider the typical technology adoption lifecycle, early majority will soon follow. I expect more health care professionals to adopt blockchain and embrace unique opportunities and innovative models that this technological breakthrough enables. We’re still in the proof of concept stage, but that’s a critical point in time, where blockchain companies are establishing the right frameworks to support the early adopters. Within the next few years, we’ll see collaborative efforts and tangible results that will clear the path for widespread blockchain applications.


Medgadget: Which blockchain use cases and applications represent low-hanging fruits that enterprise healthcare organizations are willing to implement today?

Silcoff: Health institutions currently tend to store private records in centralized databases, which means collaboration and shared secure access to records still haven’t been solved. Interoperability will be necessary for these systems to operate more efficiently. Here are just a few specific blockchain implementation use cases that could benefit health institutions immensely: Secure sharing of health records, without compromising patient’s identity; easy and secure access to medical history on blockchain; and traceability of drugs and medical supplies.

According to the World Health Organization, substandard and falsified medical products represent one in ten medical products in low and middle-income countries. Inferior drug products contain harmful ingredients posing a real threat to users. Blockchain for traceability could help identify contaminants and ensure the product quality.


Medgadget: Why does blockchain technology represent such a significant improvement over traditional enterprise software systems?

Silcoff: People often ask me, why do you care about healthcare? My answer to that is quite personal. You see, my dad had cancer. When you fight cancer, you’ll do almost anything to find the cure. You’ll do anything to gain an extra month, even one more day of life. In my dad’s case, we’ve lucked out in a way — through our own personal network, we found out about a clinical trial in Cuba. Accessing that particular drug meant that my dad, who was given just four months to live, stayed with us for 18 more months. I often wonder, if people like my dad had easier access to clinical trial information, or if doctors around the world had easier access to patients like my dad for clinical trials, who knows, perhaps he’d still be here today. How do you create the right framework for information sharing? The sharing of medical information securely and efficiently across borders, institutions and organizations still hasn’t been solved. Ultimately, access to more complete, verified patient data can lead to more comprehensive patient care.


Medgadget: While there are a lot of positives, what technical challenges still exist to realizing the full benefit of blockchain technology?

Silcoff: Blockchain networks will increasingly grow over the next years, and so will the number of transactions. Scalability and governance are often touted as the main challenges. I think it’s more interesting, and perhaps more important, to keep talking about the opportunities technology unlocks and start accelerating mass adoption.


Medgadget: What about regulatory barriers?

Silcoff: Healthcare is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world. That said, blockchain balances privacy and secure data sharing, and that opens up exciting possibilities in this sector.


Medgadget: Let’s talk a little about your own endeavors. What are you working on building at Shyft Network and where did the motivation come from?

Silcoff: For Shyft, everything starts with the individual. We strive to provide users with a way to get included in the data economy from which they are currently excluded. According to the World Bank Group’s 2018 #ID4D Global Dataset, an estimated one billion people around the globe face challenges in proving who they are. Having their data validated by Trust Anchors on the Shyft Network would facilitate their ability to access basic services like medical and financial aid.

We’re breaking down walls and silos to build bridges that transcend borders and working with established and up-and-coming organizations to disrupt the way identity is assessed and managed. Given the extent of the global identity crisis, it has never been more important to work on solutions that will help build a more fair and inclusive future for everyone.


Medgadget: Specifically, help us better understand Shift’s focus on Know Your Compliance (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) compliance standards

Silcoff: Consider the increasing complexity and rising costs of KYC/AML: compliance onboarding processes cost the average global bank $61 million USD annually. The more data any one institution holds, the higher cybersecurity risks. Unfortunately, hospitals and medical institutions that must maintain large datasets encounter similar challenges.

We facilitate the accessibility of compliant and verified data by leveraging distributed ledger technology, strong cryptography, and programmable smart contracts in the context of KYC/AML regulations. This powerful combination holds the potential to drastically reduce the cost and resources necessary to maintain and audit the state of compliance. As a distributed network, Shyft has no single point of failure susceptible to the risk inherent in traditional compliance systems.


Medgadget: How do KYC standards apply to healthcare organizations and how does Shyft help?

Silcoff: The onboarding and updating of new user data is handled by Trust Anchors. A machine learning system is then used to confirm the validity of information collected through KYC forms, providing additional security to the entire blockchain. Shyft can streamline patient verification and enable shared and secure access to patient data.


Medgadget: Is Shyft developing its own blockchain or building off of existing public or private blockchains?

Silcoff: We’re a permissioned Ethereum-compatible blockchain network. In essence, we’re a public-facing blockchain with transparency, connectivity, and auditability as its primary mandates; a combination of centralized data attestation and an expansive network of validation nodes that connect to the outside world.


Medgadget: You’ve mentioned Trust Anchors a few times. Can you clarify who these Trust Anchors are and what role they play?

Silcoff: Organizations seeking to streamline costly compliance systems and reduce their risk profile can act as Trust Anchors and nodes on the Shyft Network, meaning they can become active participants and data providers for the network. Their primary role is to provide “stamps of authenticity” to user accounts and through participation in the network, they can also leverage any existing coalitions, and allow for a malleable construction of Trust Channels.


Medgadget: How does Shyft allow an enterprise organization to setup or access a distributed network in such a way that it does not need to run a network of nodes itself and can do so in a way that prevents actors in the network who are not part of the enterprise business from acting maliciously?

Silcoff: Shyft Network allows external organizations to operate as nodes by becoming dApp builders, or simply integrating with Shyft through an API and taking a larger role in the ecosystem. To ensure normal functioning of the Shyft Bridge, the Shyft Bridge periodically interacts with Shyft Ring nodes by sending messages. The symbiotic relationship between the Shyft Bridge and the Shyft Ring is what enables Shyft to easily detect attacks on the Shyft Bridge. The way Shyft will protect against attacks is quite technical, but in layman’s terms in the event of a 51% attack, the Shyft blockchain may become unusable. In this case, the honest nodes need to retain a minimum amount of information about the Shyft blockchain before it goes down. The complete description of the process that ensures Shyft network resilience can be found in this on our blog.


Medgadget: Does Shyft have any current healthcare use cases implemented today? If so, how are you working with those healthcare organizations? If not, where is Shyft in the product/service development process and when do you expect to be seeing your first implementations?

Silcoff: Shyft is working closely with governments and large organizations around the world to help navigate regulations and compliance in the context of blockchain. With a global impact focus in mind, we’re already starting to make it into different countries — Shyft has recently signed an MOU with Bermuda, and we will soon be announcing more government partners wanting to leverage Shyft as a viable solution for trusted data sharing across the network.


Medgadget: Thank you for your time. To close, what other markets besides healthcare is Shyft focusing on and what are some upcoming milestones that we should be on the lookout for?

Silcoff: With Shyft’s mainnet set to launch in 2019, our focus is to onboard more Trust Anchors into our network, leverage the existing data networks of governments and institutions, and open doors to global interoperability.

Link: Shyft Network…

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