What if you could get medical advice from a real doctor at any time, anywhere in the world, and through the Ethereum blockchain? What if an expert diagnosis could be had in just minutes, and only for around $10, all through your phone? According to Dr. Moshe Praver and his team at MedCredits, this dream will soon become a reality. But how will it work for patients, and for doctors? How does this service stack up to other remote medical (or telemedicine) services like Dr. Phil’s Doctor on Demand? Does this service really need to be blockchain powered, or have its own token? We asked all these questions and more in this exclusive interview with Dr. Praver, Chief Operating Officer of MedCredits.
A Housecall From Your Blockchain Doctor
Before we get into the interview, here are some of the basics of how MedCredits will work when it goes live next year. Users first get tokens to power the app, they then submit their request and pay a fee in MEDX tokens worth around $10.
Their request could include pictures or just a text description, and possibly more options in later versions of the software. Within a few minutes, a real doctor will give them a medical response.
This is then added to the patient’s electronic medical record, which is secured on the network with its own private key and only accessible to those the patient allows access to.
The first version of the software, called Hippocrates, is focused on dermatology — treating skin conditions.
Our Interview with Dr. Praver
Robert DeVoe: What was the main inspiration for starting MedCredits?
Dr. Moshe Praver: As physicians, we witness firsthand the inefficiencies of our healthcare system. Patients have poor access to healthcare and often cannot afford it. Physicians have progressively seen their practice autonomy diminish and this is causing an epidemic of physician burnout.
Blockchain technology gives us new tools to fix these problems. We can now build networks that are truly peer-to-peer. With that comes the ability for patients and physicians to self-govern the supply and demand of healthcare services and control their own healthcare data.
RD: Who is your main target audience, who would you like to see using the platform over the next few years? Is there any set of people that MedCredits is not suitable for?
MP: It’s tough to limit our target audience, because everyone is a patient. This is an open-access platform and there is no one it is not suitable for. With that said, we have been strategic in the early days to ensure a robust network. We are taking a bottom-up approach and focusing on patients and physicians rather than larger healthcare institutions. We are building the first truly decentralized registry of physicians. Doctors on the platform will spread the word to their patients and the network should propagate itself.
RD: According to the introductory video on your site, MedCredits appears to be only for skin diseases. Is that correct? If so, is that just for now or is that the only expected use case of the platform?
MP: The “teledermatology” DApp (Hippocrates) is a deliberate go-to market strategy that works within the current limitations of Ethereum’s infrastructure and still delivers a usable product that will attract physicians and patients to the network. We will most definitely be adding additional services, such as family medicine, ophthalmology and pediatrics. The platform is also open-source, meaning that anyone can build apps on the physician registry.
RD: What attracted you to Ethereum? Are you concerned about scaling or transaction costs? Did your group consider an alternative platform like Ethereum Classic or Lisk?
MP: At this time, Ethereum has the most robust developer tools. We are quite engaged in the Ethereum community and benefit from the rich collaborative environment. Scaling is a huge focus of the foundation and they have some pretty brilliant solutions. Blockchains that claim to be massively scalable right now are either sacrificing decentralization or aren’t truly blockchains.
RD: Why did your team decide to make this a blockchain based project? Are there any issues your team foresaw that could only be, or best be handled with a blockchain or Ethereum?
MP: Patients and doctors are transacting in a trustless, permissionless environment with smart contracts governing the rules of these transactions. A blockchain makes this type of peer-to-peer commerce possible. A separate, but equally important question is: why does MedCredits need its own token? The MEDX token creates a crypto-economic model that incentivizes token-holders to curate a registry of certified physicians.
RD: How does your offering compare with other remote medicine products like Doctor on Demand? What are your main competitive advantages that you have and your competitors might not have?
MP: Doctor on Demand is a centralized telemedicine service — a rent-seeking middleman that is no longer necessary. Off-hand, I’m not sure what their fees are, but these companies commonly take 25 percent of all transaction fees from the doctors. MedCredits eliminates this fee entirely. Furthermore, it creates a global marketplace for telemedicine that matches supply and demand. The result is a ~$10 evaluation that arrives within minutes. Doctor on Demand simply can’t compete with this and sustain their business model.
(Author’s note: We checked into the pricing model for Doctor on Demand, and their fees range from $75-$229 per use.)
RD: What happens if someone sends a picture to a doctor on your platform and the doctor has no idea what it is or otherwise can’t give a diagnosis? Is the patient still charged?
MP: Telemedicine is very useful as a triage service. Over 90 percent of the time, a patient will receive a diagnosis and will have saved time and money. In some cases, a patient may need to be seen in-person by a dermatologist for a diagnosis to be made. For these cases, we will have a physician referral service connect the patient to a local dermatologist in the MedCredits registry.
RD: How will you encourage doctors to accept cryptocurrency?
MP: To make the platform user-friendly in the early days, MedCredits may facilitate payment with fiat currencies.
RD: How will people get your tokens? Are you concerned that this may add too much friction to the experience and turn potential customers away? What about the need for ether in order to pay transaction fees for ERC-20 tokens?
MP: Tokens will be available for purchase in the token sale or through third-party exchanges. We anticipate that protocols like 0x will create frictionless decentralized exchange of ERC-20 tokens, eliminating the additional step.
Conclusion: Good Idea but Needs Frameworks
Will MedCredits, or other telemedicine services be the future of or at least a part of the future of medical care? The power of cutting out middle-men like insurance companies and hospitals for getting quick medical advice is certainly compelling.
The platform will no doubt face a number of difficulties when it comes to the legal framework surrounding medical care in each region of the world. However, with enough funding and effort, almost anything is possible.
In any case, our thanks go to Dr. Praver for taking the time to speak with us and share some details about the vision behind MedCredits.
Does MedCredits sound like something you’d use for your own healthcare? Tell us why or why not in the comments.
Images via Pixabay, MedCredits