BlockEra Competes at Distributed: Health 2017

To read about the Distributed: Health 2017 Conference, follow this link! To learn about the application, read below.

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During the weekend of September 23rd, 2017, we spent 24hrs with our favorite blockchain developers competing at the Distributed: Health 2017 Hackathon. This hackathon took place in Nashville at Vanderbilt's Wond'ry. The goal: to build the future of healthcare using blockchain technology. By the end of the hackathon, we had built Collective. This post will dive into how we approached healthcare with a novel idea to incentivize healthy behaviors.

For those that aren't familiar, a hackathon is a 24hr straight competition where you build out code and a business case to solve a real problem. The amount of caffeine needed to stay awake through the night is definitely unhealthy but the end result is always worth the tiredness. Depending on the hackathon's focus, there are different problems to solve.

Once the hackathon kicked off, we spent the first three hours of competition building out a concept to fix healthcare insurance with smart contracts through automated pools. Unfortunately, in hour four, we quickly poked holes through the concept and realized we didn't have the domain knowledge to truly solve the healthcare insurance system. With this realization, we decided to leverage our strengths and build something simpler in concept and design.

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From that moment of panic, we built Collective, a blockchain application to incentivize healthy lifestyles for those we care about. The health industry seems to ignore that, “the most effective approach to address the leading causes of death is to reduce and prevent underlying risk factors, including physical inactivity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and underage and excessive alcohol use." Meaning, we need to change bad health behaviors that lead to poor health versus focusing on fixing the symptoms at the doctor's office.

In fact, 75% of annual healthcare costs and 37% of deaths are attributable to bad behaviors that lead to poor health. This costs us $260 Billion annually. And yet, the bulk of healthcare costs are spent on disease care after the fact, while prevention care currently accounts for only 2%–3% of spend.

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Collective's solution is a smart contract platform that allows governments, employers, insurance companies, friends, family and more to incentivize healthy behavior. In essence, it is a social crowdfunding platform utilizing blockchain technology to fund and incentivize healthy behaviors.

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To do so, a person or company, such as a significant other, may have identified an unhealthy behavior that is detrimental to the one they love. However, the loved one isn't motivated to change the behavior or needs help. The significant other would enter the Collective application to create and define a behavior that needs to be incentivized or changed. In this instance, we will say the significant other wanted to incentivize the loved one to start working out. Other easy examples could be to incentivize them to eat healthier, quit smoking, stop drinking, read more, etc.

For the workout example, the significant other creates a smart contract through the interface and manages positive behavior milestones that the loved one must meet. This could be something like requiring the loved one to link a video of them doing 100 push-ups everyday for a month.

The significant other will then have the opportunity to find others that would be interested in funding the smart contract incentive. The incentive funders could include employers, insurance companies, friends, family, or anyone else interested in incentivizing healthy behaviors in the individual. We will say in this instance that the significant other collectively funded the incentive with $500 total from their employer and insurance company. This incentive will be paid out in $17 daily increments after each video is approved.

Once the incentive is funded, they can give it to the loved who can accept or deny. Of course, some people or companies may not be comfortable with confronting an individual with such personal topics. Thankfully, with the anonymity of the blockchain, these Collectives can be offered to an individual with or without identifying the parties who created it.

Once the Collective is accepted by the loved, they are then responsible for completing the milestones and proving that they did so. For the push-up example, they could link a video of them doing push-ups through IPFS hashed to the blockchain. The video can then be watched to verify the milestones manually or automatically by the significant other, employer, and insurance company.

In other variations, you could use Fitbit data feeds to verify that they are walking at least 10,000 steps a day. You could even use MyFitnessPal data feeds to track calorie intake or any other IoT device to track progress. Additionally, you could leverage social proof from those around the individual, such as friends and coworkers, to verify that they are indeed changing their behaviors. This would be effective for monitoring behaviors such as smoking or drinking.

If the milestones are completed and verified, the incentive is instantly released to the loved one. At the end of a Collective, the loved one has the ability to return the money back to those who funded it in appreciation of them helping improve their life.

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We believe this is a perfect use case of blockchain technology because it can coordinate multiple parties and provide instant payment gratification for a changed behavior. In other systems, it is difficult to get everyone to use a certain application like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. With a public blockchain, this hurdle goes away. Additionally, the ability to have instant payment gratification better connects the behavior modification to the incentive. Delays between the two can lead to apathy and inaction. Finally, behavior modification requires a decentralized social approach. To truly influence individual behavior, you need those closest to the individual to identify the problem and have the tools to solve them.

In application, Collective would be a great product for employers or insurance companies to influence employees and/or customers to have healthier lifestyles. This leads to healthier individuals and reduced health costs for all. You can already see this in action with some of the competitions companies run and discounts insurance companies provide for healthy behaviors. Local governments are even using such systems to prevent smoking. Collective takes this concept to a more precise level and allows anyone to help those they care about to be healthier.


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Kyle Tut