Pradeep Goel, CEO of Solve.Care, a blockchain-powered platform for healthcare benefits administration and payments.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the recent growth of the decentralized finance (DeFi) market could change the game for the healthcare industry. Let’s explore several examples.
1. Medical devices
With regards to medical device financing and leasing, currently, no one is offering a global solution — no government agencies, banks, or insurers. As healthcare systems around the world struggle to cope with the challenges inflicted and exacerbated as a result of COVID-19, it is clear there is a real need to change the process around medical equipment leasing and financing.
Telehealth and virtual care are quickly becoming the most attractive way of accessing healthcare, both as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the changing landscape of healthcare. Patient devices include apparatus such as blood pressure monitors, glucose meters, oximeters, weight scales, and even thermometers. The distribution of 4G medical devices for remote patient monitoring provides patients with chronic illnesses with the equipment they need to take control of their health. This facilitates the coming together of the administrators, practitioners, and patients in an efficient and trust-minimized manner. By financing the leasing of medical devices through decentralized solutions we can provide better patient outcomes, and promote transparency.
Professional devices such as x-ray machines, computed tomography scans, magnetic resonance imaging and even specialist medical furniture are also needed. This is evident through the sustained growth of community clinics, remote diagnostic labs, and fully automated walk in diagnostic centers — all of which need to be financed. Identifying a device financing solution that is globally and easily accessible to both physicians and patients alike can be achieved through the utilization of DeFi.
2. Increased variety of SMEs
Accessibility to financing acts as a significant barrier to entry for many of the smaller players in the market. Similarly to many other industries, professional equipment financing is available in abundance for larger equipment manufacturers, often due to economies of scale, however the same opportunities are not afforded to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). This results in less and less SMEs participating in the market, reducing variety for customers and overall, debilitating the competition in the industry. Smaller manufacturers could offer revised financing options to their customers through decentralized finance, further lowering the end cost for customers and increasing the availability of access to affordable healthcare equipment to customers and indeed to healthcare facilities.
While DeFi presents a huge market opportunity for healthcare solutions, to date there has been little talk of the integration of the two, despite the massive potential for the healthcare industry. At the moment, community service providers are in great need of increased cash flow financing. They have a need to serve the population first, then they bill the government, and await payment which can take up to 180 days. This way they end up paying an extortionate price if finance is available at all. With traditional finance continuously failing to cater to the needs of stakeholders within the healthcare industry, by using decentralized finance to democratize healthcare, it will provide better patient outcomes, and promote transparency within the industry. There are more ways for users to participate and they have more autonomy around projects. Users can participate by staking tokens and vote in community voting.
The health insurance sector is a cause for contention in many parts of the world, and contributes greatly to inequality of access to care. Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) utilizing DeFi for healthcare have the potential to democratize healthcare by putting the power into the hands of the community.
Basing health insurance practices on a DeFi model creates a new realm of possibilities within the healthcare industry that will benefit all stakeholders, from patients, to doctors, to governments and care organizations. For example, doctors could create an asset pool to fund a malpractice insurance model specifically for their needs, or similarly, patients themselves could create a global insurance pool, cutting out the middlemen. In many cases, it is these middlemen that result in high costs and delayed waiting times for treatment. So, by basing health insurance on a DeFi model, we can make the healthcare people need more affordable, accessible and equal.
Applying DeFi throughout the healthcare industry will ultimately benefit patients, doctors, and care organizations. There is a lack of funding in the area of consumer and faculty medicine devices, medical research, and medical malpractice insurance, which collectively pose great challenges to the healthcare industry and result in poor patient care.
DAOs utilizing DeFi for healthcare have the potential to democratize healthcare by putting the power into the hands of the community to select and finance deserving projects that create value for communities and generate sustainable returns in a highly transparent manner. They aim to deliver innovative financial solutions for deserving healthcare projects, while simultaneously improving the access and efficacy of healthcare at a time when it is needed more than ever.
5. Drug discovery and research funding
DeFi provides a great opportunity when it comes to supporting drug discovery and research funding. Many diseases fall by the wayside when it comes to available prescriptions and research. In many cases, some diseases are so rare that researching possible treatments is seen as unprofitable and companies can’t justify the cost. These diseases, termed orphan diseases, can benefit from community and global funding through the same DAOs utilizing DeFi for healthcare mentioned previously. These DAOs can give families and loved ones of those afflicted by these orphan diseases an opportunity to be involved in the financing of research and more importantly make their own project proposals. Furthermore, not just research, but financing for much needed distribution of prescription medicines and vaccines can benefit from the same DAOs.
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