Why this Offline Legacy Business is Tapping Blockchain and AI
HealthFX wants to be the TripAdvisor for Healthcare
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
These days, it seems everyone is jumping on the blockchain bandwagon. There is particularly a lot of buzz surrounding how the technology can revolutionize healthcare.
So what does HealthFX, a Singapore-based company that's using blockchain and machine learning to build what they describe as a “TripAdvisor for healthcare,” think sets them apart?
Quite ironically, it's their almost decade-long experience as an offline legacy business.
Global Health and Travel, the parent company of HealthFX, launched about eight years ago, producing medical tourism-focused content online and in a print magazine that's distributed primarily to regional air carriers. The company is also an awarding body that recognizes outstanding hospitals and healthcare providers in the region. It then naturally evolved to include end-to-end medical facilitation services.
Says HealthFX founder and CEO Varun Panjwani, "[Medical facilitation] has become a focus of ours because that’s where we really go from passively helping consumers find care through content and awards to actually hand-holding them through finding care, booking care, insurance processing, and after-care servicing.” In this vertical, they have partnerships with MasterCard and insurance provider AXA.
But although the company experienced positive growth, Panjwani says it has been a painstaking effort behind the scenes. Coordinating between patients and doctors and healthcare providers was a tedious process. “It’s almost 25 steps, and back and forth multiple times, to get all the details you need,” he says.
“That’s where we kind of saw blockchain as a real solution to our problems. And that’s how we're moving our legacy business into the new technology.”
The result? HealthFX, a platform and marketplace powered by AI and blockchain that connects patients, doctors, hospitals, and insurance providers all in one ecosystem to help patients find the best possible care. A utility token (ticker symbol: HFX) will be used for transactions, and a loyalty rewards program incentivizes patients to keep using the system.
The new platform also allows the company to reach beyond their medical tourism market, a $100 billion industry, and into the $8.7 trillion global healthcare industry, of which $3 trillion is in Asia, says Panjwani.
Why blockchain and AI
A key challenge in the healthcare industry is siloed information systems. Says Panjwani, “You don’t know where, or who, or how to find your old medical records. We don’t even know what vaccines we’ve had, which is [very] basic information.”
The HealthFX platform hopes to hurdle this by gathering all records and stakeholders on one platform. Using blockchain to do this allows for data validation, whether it's a patient's identity or details of medical transactions, and gives the data an immutable, transparent history.
Aside from helping patients find care, the platform could also save hospitals and insurers millions of dollars in third-party administrative costs. And because doctors have easy access to these records, there's continuous engagement. Says Panjwani, “It’s like going back to when we grew up years ago where your neighborhood or family doctor knew your entire history. Why should your specialist be any different?”
The use of AI, on the other hand, helps with making the best possible matches based on huge amounts of aggregated data, and “humanizing” the interface by allowing the system to process language as it is naturally spoken.
To address privacy and security issues, medical records and other sensitive data will be on a private blockchain so that patients can control who can read and write information, says Panjwani.
From old to new
Global Health and Travel was started by Varun's father, Narender Panjwani, who comes from a publishing background. When the younger Panjwani, with his experience in information systems and finance, joined the company, he helped turn what was then a media firm into a technology firm.
Luckily, there was little resistance to the new technology from within the company, and presenting blockchain and AI not as new technologies but as underlying infrastructure to make the business more efficient also helped. “When discussing it internally, I positioned it as no different from [choosing between] Google Drive or Dropbox or central servers…The inherent business model doesn’t change in terms of the value proposition to the consumers.”
Says Panjwani, “There were more resistance and far more work to be done four or five years ago when we went from an offline media magazine to online content and booking and facilitation. That was a far bigger mindset shift because the way of connecting the stakeholders changed.”
But even from outside the company, there is very little that the new platform is changing: “We're not looking to disrupt the way stakeholders work with one another…[t]he way the insurers are working, the way care providers provide care, or the way hospitals are run, we’re not disrupting that. We’re simply impacting the way in which the patient communicates with each one.”
Panjwani estimates that there are around 50 healthcare tokens being generated or upcoming. In this sea of companies harnessing cutting edge technology, what sets HealthFX apart may very well be their years of experience on the legacy side of things.